Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November musings

Goochland’s supervisors tended to business at their November 7 meeting. The session began with good news of the successful Tuckahoe Creek Service District bond refunding, which resulted in a significant portion of the debt now carrying a true interest rate of 3.78 percent. This will provide some badly needed breathing room to permit the TCSD to grow toward self-funding.

Electoral board chair, Herb Griffith reported that initial figures indicated that 87.4 percent of county voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s presidential election. He said that Registrar Frances C. Ragland is “a monument to what good people in important posts can do and do well.”

As 2012 wanes, the board and staff are already looking ahead to the budget process for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2013. The county now uses a two year budget to facilitate better fiscal planning. John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Financial Affairs gave the supervisors a budget update.

The county had a revenue surplus of about $2.7 million for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2012. A list of recommendations for the funds was presented. For details, see Part B and Part C of the November board packet on the county website,

Some of this money will be placed in the general fund, the remainder spread among several areas including: Virginia Retirement System funding; utilities projects; vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office and schools.

Real estate valuations are expected to remain steady at $4.3 billion—down from the all-time high of $4.72 billion in 2009--next year. Personal property tax collection is also expected to remain unchanged at $9.21 million. No raises will be in the offing next year and the school board is working on yet another lean budget. These are very preliminary numbers, but the process is underway. Doing more with less is the new normal. Is the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that this is preliminary information, that the process, which will include ample opportunity for public input, is just getting underway and that things may well change between now and adoption of next year’s budget in the spring.

A request to refer a draft “Dark Sky” ordinance to the planning commission for a public hearing was deferred until the supervisors can study the matter. Concerns about the broadness of the language and enforcement were cited as reasons for the postponement.

Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 reported that a working group will be formed to draft requests for information and requests for proposals to gauge further possibilities for widespread deployment of high speed internet options. These are expected to be complete by March. A survey of existing communications assets is also expected to be completed by then.

A suggestion was made to include high speed internet information on planning and zoning applications.

A draft of the county’s legislative agenda, our position on matters addressed by the Virginia General Assembly, was presented by County Attorney Norman Sales. In September, the supervisors met with Delegates Lee Ware and Peter Farrell and Senator Tom Garrett to discuss issues of concern to Goochland and ask for their help in promoting these matters in Richmond.

The agenda includes a request that the boundaries of service districts, like the TCSD, may be amended. Currently, these boundaries can be changed only be repealing the existing ordinance creating the old district and passing another to approve the changes. The repeal method opens the door for landowners to leave the TCSD.

The supervisors also would like to be able to disallow land use taxation in the TCSD without ending the practice in the whole county. This would provide incentive for some landowners to sell or develop their TCSD property instead of using it for agriculture at a much reduced tax rate.

Support for reduction of regulation on farm stores and farmers markets was also included. In an attempt to protect the public, the state is regulating cottage industry almost to the point of extinction. It is possible to relax these standards without jeopardizing public health.

Apparently, state regulations are now being cited as the main obstacle in resolving, once and for all, the exact location of portions of the border between Goochland and Louisa Counties. This discussion has been in the works for generations. Although it would seem that GIS technology should be able to plot the boundary with pinpoint accuracy, we still need the state’s blessing to use this methodology.

Perhaps next year the supervisors could suggest that Virginia cease to be a Dillon Rule state, a condition that gives all authority to the state, which then cedes certain powers to localities. This often absurd and cumbersome game of “Mother may I” squanders resources better used elsewhere.

During a discussion of existing and upcoming vacancies on boards and commissions, it was revealed that not a single citizen expressed interest in serving the county in this manner.

To counter the perception that “you had to know somebody” to be appointed to one of these bodies, the supervisors placed a section on the county website inviting anyone to be considered for appointment. Guess now we know why it seemed like the same twelve people were on every board—no one else wants to be bothered! In case you missed it, information is located under the heading “serving Goochland” on the supervisors’ tab on the county website.

In the evening, the board approved a change to sign setback rules; granted Luck Stone approval to use a portion of its Ashland Road facility for overburden as the pit grows; approved an ordinance change to clarify the rules for hunting during muzzleloader season; and approved the expanded overlay district for the Centerville Village. One small parcel of bare land on Plaza Drive, which is surrounded by “grandfathered” metal and cinder block structures, was exempted to make it more attractive to a buyer.

The board also granted a conditional use permit for land in Bellview Gardens, which was discussed in a previous post.

A public joint workshop between the supervisors and members of the Economic Development Authority will be held on Wednesday, December 5 at 6 p.m. in the library.















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