Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Planninng Commission does its job

The July 19 meeting of the Goochland County Planning Commission was short and sweet. Gone are the days when this appointed body deliberated about land use matters into the wee hours of the morning. The commissioners asked thoughtful questions before casting their votes and fulfilled their charge to review land use changes.

Commissioners James Atkinson, District 1, and Matt Brewer, at large, were absent.

Public hearings involved extension of two existing conditional use permits in the eastern part of the county and amendment of county ordinances to be consistent with state law.

The commission recommended that Louise Hanscom be granted a 15 year extension for her riding school on Millers Lane. This business has been in operation for 37 years with no complaints. As equestrian activities are an important part of Goochland’s rural character, preservation of this business is important. Commissioner Thomas Rockecharlie at large asked about lighting the ring where riding lessons take place.

Ms. Hanscom stated that the ring is lighted mostly during afternoon and early evening hours when days are short. Exterior lights are turned off at the conclusion of lessons.

Extending the duration of the CUP also represents an easing of regulatory burden on local small businesses. The $750 CUP filing fee can be better spent enhancing Ms. Hanscom’s operation.

The other CUP extension was for Richmond Strikers who converted a portion of the former Motorola site in West Creek into an attractive and heavily used youth soccer venue. Although some county residents opposed this use when the CUP was initially granted five years ago, the Strikers have been a good neighbor. Conditions agreed to include willingness to share the field with Goochland soccer organizations as schedules permit.

Scott Turner, executive director of the Strikers, reported that tournaments held at the West Creek site have attracted thousands of people. These events were the number one 2011 driver for hotel occupancy in the Richmond region. Sadly, as there are no hotels in Goochland, these dollars probably went to Henrico.

Turner explained that the Strikers are working with Matt Ryan, Goochland’s Director of Economic Development to promote sports tourism. He contended that soccer tournaments increase the national visibility for West Creek.

“You never know when a corporate CEO looking to relocate his company is standing on the sidelines watching his kid play soccer,” said Turner.

The application for extension of this CUP included a request for a sign along Rt. 288 similar to that constructed by the West Creek Emergency Center.

Tuner credited the Strikers’ program with teaching great life lessons, “learning to win with dignity and lose with grace.” He also pointed out that the Strikers built a restroom facility connected to Tuckahoe Creek Service District utility lines and paid $99,000 in water and sewer costs last year.

The Strikers use a portion of one of the three lots built by Motorola and their fields are not lit. He explained that Capital One is using the other parking lots on a temporary basis and deploys some lighting during evening hours in the winter for employee safety.

Ordinance amendments concerned the Board of Zoning Appeals. One change states permits decisions made by a zoning administrator that are reviewed by the governing body (Board of Supervisors) to be appealed to the Circuit Court.

The other amendment states that if a BZA decision results in a tie vote, which essentially upholds the county’s side of the argument, the person filing the appeal may have the matter carried over to the next meeting.

This change removes another opportunity for mischief on the part of a locality. A few years back, a matter before the BZA resulted in a tie vote because one of the members was on a previously scheduled mission trip. This resulted in a defeat of the appeal. The county postponed the hearing several times, presumably until conditions existed to ensure that it would prevail.

Commission Chair Courtney Hyers, District 5, appointed Ty Querry, District 2 and Rockecharlie to a dark sky ordinance committee. They will work with Hyers and county staff to draft language for a proposed ordinance on this matter.

Principal planner Tom Coleman explained to the commission that the supervisors will no longer refer rezoning applications to the commission. Instead, when an application for rezoning, conditional use permit or other land use change is deemed complete by staff, a public hearing date will be set. This policy change will not remove any opportunity for public input on these matters. Community meetings will be followed by public hearings before both the planning commission and supervisors.

Eliminating this step from the rezoning process will streamline land use matters and encourage some economic development.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We're from the government. . .

VDOT trots out dogs and ponies

Last Wednesday’s design public hearing on the widening of Interstate 64 east and west of the Rockville/Manakin interchange was a typical VDOT event. The meeting was called to inform Goochland residents of the pending construction project and allegedly receive their input on the matter.

To see all the details, visit www.VirginiaDOT.org and click on projects and studies in the Richmond Region.

At least six VDOT employees, including engineers and construction managers, were on hand to explain details of the proposed project.

Both eastbound and westbound I-64 will be widened to six lanes for 4.52 miles west of Pouncey Tract Road. Most construction will occur in the median with the expectation of minimal impact on traffic.

The total cost of the project is $34.7 million, which will be funded by a combination of state and federal money. However, a brochure distributed at the hearing warns that, because the project is in the early design stage, costs are subject to change.

The third lanes were part of the original design for the state route 288, but lack of both state and federal funds prevented their inclusion when the road was built.

Existing rush hour gridlock at the interchange will be relieved by adding lanes on the exit ramps and turn lanes on Ashland Road to keep through traffic moving. A second lane on the westbound exit ramp is expected to significantly reduce the vehicle back-up by funneling northbound traffic into the right lane at the bottom of the ramp.

According to project manager Kevin Reichert, the improvements will accommodate expected growth in the area, which he estimated at less than two percent annually, for the next 17 years.

About 40 Goochlanders showed up to hear what VDOT had to say. Most of those in attendance use the interchange every day and were skeptical about the efficacy of the proposal. This is not surprising given the recent Broad Street Road widening debacle.

One contributing factor to the existing interchange gridlock at rush hour is the mix of passenger vehicles and large trucks, which accelerate at different speeds. It takes far longer for dump trucks that service heavy industry in the area to accelerate from a dead stop than a car, so fewer vehicles make it through the traffic light, exacerbating the rush hour ramp congestion.

To the disappointment of many, there was no discussion about the westbound interchange from Route 288 to Broad Street Road. The VDOT folk did not seem particularly interested to learn that Goochlanders routinely avoid this poorly executed interchange by taking Rt. 288 to westbound I-64 and exiting at Ashland Road.

Suggestions that installation of a traffic signal at the Rt. 288/ Broad Street Road would reduce the number of cars using Ashland Road were met with the usual “traffic warrants do no support a signal there” VDOT response.

One annoyed Goochlander said: “Just put it up.”

In response to complaints about the westbound Rt. 288/Broad Street Road situation VDOT announced that a study of options for long term improvement to this interchange and the Ashland Road/ Interstate 64 area is planned, and funded, in the current fiscal year. Look for suggestions of tunnels under Rt. 288 and flyovers whose costs would far exceed the installation of a traffic signal.

(See the supervisors’ packet for July 3 on the county website at www.co.goochland.va.us for details.)

County supervisors Bob Minnick, who represents District 4, site of the proposed project, and Susan Lascollette District 1 attended. As VDOT handles all road matters, they have little say.

Curiously absent were Delegate Peter Farrell and Senator Tom Garrett, who represent this area in the General Assembly. Guess they were too busy planning ultrasound probe deployments for next year’s GA session to come and hear what vexes their constituents on a daily basis.

Given the cumbersome and convoluted road building process in Virginia, it’s a wonder that anything gets done. The VDOT staff follows mandated procedures. Goochland must work with regional planning groups to get approval for major road improvements here.

Virginia needs to address the entire transportation issue in a meaningful way. Total reform of VDOT is needed. However, this will be a complicated undertaking involving vast sums of money, influence, and an enormous bureaucracy. It’s no wonder that single term governors are reluctant to do more than chip away at the edges of the problem.

It’s time for Virginia to allow its governors to serve two consecutive terms to provide enough continuity to fix things that are broken, like VDOT.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Into the new year

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors held its first meeting of the 2013 fiscal year on July 3.

Reverend Jeff Spence began the afternoon session with a denomination neutral invocation. His words were a stirring reminder of what Americans celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Visit the supervisors’ tab on the county website: www.co.goochland.va.us for a recording of the meeting.

Earlier in the afternoon, the county audit committee met to kick off the financial review process for the just ended 2012 fiscal year. A new firm, PBGH, has been hired to conduct the audit of county and school finances. Michael Garber a client service manager with the firm explained that PBGH will conduct a comprehensive review.

Using a streamlined team approach PBGH will work with both county and school audit teams.

The Certified Annual Financial Review (CAFR) for fiscal 2012, expected to be presented at the December board meeting, will discuss the county’s financial condition and make recommendations to improve practices.

Garber said that because Goochland is a high risk auditee, thanks to the sticky fingers of Brenda Grubbs, a fraud inquiry is part of PBGH’s audit process to ensure that all is well. This will include asking some county and school employees “have you ever been asked to do something that you are not comfortable with?”

District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson welcomed a new set of eyes and ears to verify that Goochland’s financial operations are being conducted in a proper and ethical manner.

“No one is above the review process,” said Peterson. “Transgressions will find the light of day.”

That’s an attitude that seemed to be sorely lacking in Goochland government for far too long.

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew introduced newly hired deputies.

Director of Economic Development, Matt Ryan and Deputy County Administrator for Community Development Dan Schardein, both new staff hires, reported on their activities.

Ryan is overseeing the process of crafting a comprehensive website to tout the Goochland as a good place to do business. This should have been in place ten years ago. He is also visiting all county businesses to express support and gather input. Ryan reported that local companies were pleased with the initiative.

While attracting new enterprises to Goochland is important, we also need to support and nurture the businesses already here. This is the first step in developing a collaborative rather than adversarial relationship with local companies.

Schardein said that he is working on an internal review of practices with the goal of streamlining permitting and other zoning and land use processes.

To this end, the Board approved a change in its policy to eliminate the referral of zoning cases to the planning commission. This could shave as much as 45 days off the rezoning process and removes the opportunity for supervisors to make mischief. There will still be at least two public hearings a one community meeting on proposed land use changes, which will give citizens plenty of opportunity for input.

Creation of a village plan for Centerville is also a high priority on Schardein’s to do list. The plan should have been in place ten years ago to facilitate orderly and appropriate development in Centerville.

Schardein said that the county needs to ensure that its policies clear and concise so that builders and developers are able understand what is required of them. That must mean that the county will stop making up rules at it goes along.

Heartburn surrounding the move of Benedictine Preparatory High School to the River Road corridor continues. The Board entered closed session to consult with legal counsel pertaining to an appeal to the Board of Supervisors by the Benedictine Society of Virginia.

Given the perception that an opponent of the BHP relocation was instrumental in the election of the entire board, the supervisors must take scrupulous care to proceed in an impartial manner to avoid an appearance of payback in this matter.

In spite of the promises of greater transparency, the facts in the matter remain quite murky. We do not know if this is a legitimate disagreement between the two parties, or issues trumped up as payback for the power shift in the last election.

How long will it be before this is back in Circuit Court?

Phyllis Silber, Executive Director of the Goochland Historical Society, warned the supervisors that the “Yankees are Coming” at the end of September. Mounted Civil War reenactors will trace the route of Dahlgren’s 1864 raid through Goochland from September 28 through 30.

Most of the equestrian transit of the county will occur on private property. Great care will be taken to minimize impact on traffic where the event must cross our roads. The event will culminate in demonstrations at Tuckahoe Plantation on September 30.

The board voted to switch the county’s emergency notification system to the “Code Red” system, which allows the county to widely disseminate emergency information to citizens. The system that had been in place for several years was found to be inadequate to inform Lower Tuckahoe residents of a boil water advisory earlier this year and spread FEMA information following last summer’s earthquake.

According to Qiana Foote, IT Director, the current reverse 911 system is able to contact only Verizon land lines. As many households have dropped land lines in favor of cell phones, this has deficiencies. Code Red, in addition to contacting the land lines offers the option for citizens to self-register cell numbers and email addresses to receive voice, text or email notification regardless of their physical location. Contact information for every member of a household may be registered. There will be no obligation to register. Foote said that the information gathered will be placed in a confidential database whose contents cannot be sold.

The cost for initial Code Red deployment will be the same as the existing system.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 said that spreading information about cooling centers during widespread power outages caused by recent powerful storms was challenging. Foote said that the system could be used in that sort of situation.

The supervisors also voted to set a public hearing on the establishment of a two percent transient occupancy tax. Yes, boys and girls, that means this board is interested in bringing a hotel of some sort to Goochland!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America

The words of Mr. Jefferson:


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


From www.archives.gov