Monday, October 29, 2012

Ode to joy

If the October 24 District 4 Town Hall meeting was any indication, all the parts of Goochland County government are working in harmony to make beautiful music. This is a nice change from the past decades of discord and dysfunction.

The first round of town hall meetings held last spring were a little rough. Staff did most of the talking and the newly elected supervisors and school board members made brief comments and fielded a few questions.

This time, the supervisors are comfortable with their role in government. Bob Minnick, District 4 supervisor, seemed happy to talk about the TCSD debt remediation. As furor over the high and escalating water and sewer charges and ballooning ad valorem tax rate swept him into office, this was good news for many of his constituents.

The District 4 meeting was well-attended. Newcomers seemed to outnumber long-term residents, which bodes well for the county’s future.

Minnick also outlined the board’s strategy for governing that focuses on areas including economic development, quality of life, and safety and security.

As the Centerville area is expected to be the epicenter of efforts to bring new business to the county, Minnick mentioned the expansion of overlay district controls from a swath on both sides of Broad Street Road to most of the village. This is intended to ensure quality as development occurs.

While this may be less precise than a village plan that designates particular areas for specific uses, it also provides the opportunity for greater flexibility. So, instead of mandating the sterile perfection of theme park style storefronts, businesses will have freedom, within certain parameters, to create space appropriate for their operations. This should result in a Centerville with an appearance different from Short Pump, which, after all, looks a lot like places in Atlanta or Minneapolis.

Some landowners in Centerville raised concerns that more stringent design requirements on new construction while “grandfathering” the stuff that’s already there will not attract new money to the area.

Minnick said that there is “lots of economic development in the works” in addition to that already revealed.

A strange discussion, led by county administrator Rebecca Dickson, explored the special character of Centerville architecture. In fact, it is the people, not the buildings that set Centerville apart. As the northern gateway to Goochland, the appearance of Centerville is important. We need to move away from the feeling that you’ve left civilization and are “in the sticks” to the notion that Centerville is a unique place worthy of exploration.

School Board Chair Beth Hardy, who represents District 4, talked about positive developments in our school system. She said that she said that there is lots going on to enhance an already wonderful school system “and it’s all good.”

She said that the past ten months have been a heady experience with lots of emails, phone calls and conversations in the Food Lion concerning the schools. She skipped over the enormous amount of time the new school board put in getting things on track.

Hardy said that the school board is working on a wide range of initiatives to improve the rigor and quality of education to ensure that every county student is ready to succeed in the next phase of their lives when they graduate.  Hardy praised acting superintendent Dr. Pete Gretz for doing “a phenomenal job” during the transition from old regime to new.

She also said that the school board is very cognizant of the lean economic times and now includes budget reports in monthly meetings to ensure that things stay on target. Advisory committees that seek to engage the entire community for the betterment of our schools are also forming. (Please visit the great school system website at for more information. There is a lot of good stuff here for your perusal.)

Hardy then introduced Dr. James Lane, recently appointed superintendent of Goochland Schools. Although Lane’s first official day of work will be in mid-December, he has been hard at work on a listening tour to glean the community’s perceptions and expectations for our education system.

Lane and his family plan to move to the county and take an active part in the community. He and his wife are actively house hunting and he expects that the chimney Santa will use to deliver gifts to his son this Christmas will be in Goochland.

Lane said that Goochland has an excellent reputation among school divisions in the state and he hopes to make it even better.

Information presented at the meeting was generally not new. What is new for the county is the active solicitation of citizen input and willingness to listen to ideas and concerns.

Now that the new boards have tackled the most pressing items on their agendas—the TCSD debt for the supervisors and a new superintendent for the school board—they are moving down a carefully triaged laundry list of tasks.

Long ignored matters are being addressed. Mistakes will be made, but they will be acknowledged and fixed, not swept under the rug as in days of yore. As all the parts of county government work together and with the community, the tune we all sing will be sweet.




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