Thursday, November 8, 2012

Where the buck stops

Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a rezoning application for 2.7 acres of land on the corner of Mills Road and Rt. 250 in Centerville at its November 7 meeting.

District 4 supervisor Robert Minnick moved for approval. This is an indication of the integrity of this board. Under the old regime, the motion for a zoning change opposed by neighbors would have been made by a supervisor from another district. If he was confident that there were three votes to confirm, the “local” supervisor could then vote against the measure, saving face among his constituents while ensuring that the measure passed.

Following a long public hearing on the matter, during which residents of Bellview Gardens, which is joined at the hip with the property in question, contended that approval of the proposal for a medical office park would destroy their neighborhood.

The proposal includes about sixty percent of green space with extensive landscaping. Two buildings, for a total of no more than 19,000 square feet served by 95 parking spaces were illustrated in elevations. Extensive proffers and attractive elevations of proposed buildings accompanied the application.(Go to the supervisors’ page on the county website for Part C of the November 7 board packet.)

In 2011, Bellview Gardens residents raised such vigorous opposition to construction of a Goodwill Store on the same property, that the application was withdrawn. That store is currently under construction near the Centerville Food Lion in what seems like a much better location for all concerned.

The land in question, four lots on the west side of Mills Road that border the Tuckahoe Creek floodplain, was part of Bellview Gardens, platted about 50 years ago. Because many of the original lots did not perc, the subdivision was never built out.

About eight years ago, shortly after completion of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District trunk lines, the subdivision was rezoned to permit higher density using public water and sewer, resulting in the construction of many upscale homes. Little thought was given to development of the surrounding land.

Bellview Gardens residents have organized to fight any business or commercial development between their community and Broad Street Road. Until November 7, they were successful in their efforts as the county planning commissions voted 6-1 to recommend denial of the application in September.

The supervisors listened to comments from the residents, no one except the developer, Tom Kinter, spoke in favor of the rezoning.

From their questions, it was clear that the supervisor have given a lot of thought to the matter and seemed to wrestle with the close juxtaposition of commercial uses with homes. There are other places in the county—even the uber upscale Kinloch-where similar development may be in the offing.

District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. asked about vacating the end of Mills Road, to prevent its future use as an access road to the 600 acre parcel behind Bellview Gardens. This seems to indicate that development efforts for land surrounding Bellview Gardens should include access other than Mills Road.

Alvarez also observed that the proposed high quality and relatively low intensity development might be better than alternatives that would come along later. He also said that it would set a high standard for future projects. By approving this application, uncertainty about the property will be eliminated.

Residents pointed out that this rezoning request was the first to reach the supervisors, previous attempts being shot down at the planning commission level, and that a rejection by the supervisors would send a signal to the bank that holds the land that it will not be commercially developed any time soon.

District 1 supervisor Susan Lascollette pointed out that the supervisors cannot prevent anyone from filing a rezoning application. Given the desirable location of the Mills Road land, it could well come up year after year until rezoned.

The condition of the pavement on Mills Road was brought up both by residents, who contend that it is only tar and gravel and unable to withstand the traffic generated by the proposed office use. Kinter said that he had dug next to the road and it has good underlayment and several layers of asphalt. He also observed that it had withstood construction traffic of heavy vehicles when the new homes were built. He said that his group is prepared to bring the road up to VDOT standards, which could include widening it.

Principal planner Tom Coleman explained that the developer must submit an engineering study of the road as part of the building permit process.  

Residents contended that Kinter and his associate Mike Carroll have been maneuvering to secure this rezoning for some time. Some of them contended that the rezoning violates the eminent domain amendment just approved to the Virginia State Constitution.

Eminent domain is when government takes private property and conveys it to another party for development. The Bellview Gardens issue is a zoning case. The transfer of the land is from its current owner, a bank as the result of foreclosure, and Kinter’s LLC. This is a private transaction between two parties. The county’s only involvement is to approve the change of land use.

Bellview Gardens residents contended that the project will have a negative impact on their property values Kinter contended that it will have no impact.

Minnick asked what sort of use would be favored by Bellview Gardens’ residents for the land in question. The answer was that they don’t know, perhaps a library, but nothing for a good while. Some contended that any kind of residential use is preferable to commercial or office.

Following the public hearing and a protected discussion among the supervisors and residents, there was a long pause. Then Minnick made the motion.

The fallout from this decision will be interesting. This was the first really contentious matter this board has handled. They listened, they discussed and, at the end, they decided.


Jim Ingersoll said...

I know where the buck stops and it is with the board of supervisors selling out the citizens of Goochland County.

It is a rare event in our country to have a BOS over-ride the P and Z. The planning and zoning commission reviewed the data, listened to testimony and made the decision against changing the zoning in our comp plan and against this spot zoning.

Planning and zoning exists for this purpose but apparently our new BOS does not care about it's own p and z commission and certainly does not care about "we the people" of Goochland County.

Great job on the article and picking up the details that included Bob Minnick asking for the motion which was inappropriate.

The BOS has no regard for Goochland residents or it's own planning board, they would not look into the eyes of their own citizens and I had hoped the corruption in Goochland was gone but now I am not so certain.

Thanks for covering this story objectively. "we the people" are still in shock.

Jim Ingersoll

S. E. Warwick said...

The Goochland Board of Supervisors has voted contrary to the recomendations of the PLanning Commission several times in the past. They may also have voted against the recomendation of the Planning Commission when the density of Bellview Gardens was raised about eight years ago, again to bring money into the county.

Jordan Hedgepeth said...

The outcome here was apparently pre-ordained by the all-powerful board. That “grapevine” you speak of told us months ago this was the decision that was coming and it didn’t matter what we did or said.

So, if that is true, you may ask yourself, “Why not just get right down to it and vote? Why waste time and ask any questions at all?”

-Simple. How could this body make such a decision without clearly demonstrating its own disregard for the wishes of the citizens not to mention the recommendation of its own planning commission and the county’s comprehensive plan?

I think they struggled with this and spent so much time Wednesday night “deliberating” because, they had to find a way to justify such an outcome in the face of all the arguments against it. They had to craft some sort of plausible reason to accept the cannibalization of one of Goochland’s oldest, and previously intact neighborhoods.

That fact was made clear when Manny Alvarez took the words of P&Z commissioner Ty Query, out of context, stating that during the P&Z meeting Ty had stated this “medical complex” was the “perfect building” and Bellview Gardens was the “perfect” place for it. A fact that Manny conveniently forgot was that Ty had actually followed that comment with that all to-critical-conjunction “but.”

You see, Ty, who appears to be a very thoughtful commissioner, spent some time in Bellview Gardens before he voted in September. He wanted to see the location where that “perfect” building would go so he rode into our neighborhood on his motorcycle one summer day and spent about 2-hours observing our community.

He noticed us. We noticed him. Ty voted against the rezoning.

He made it clear during the September P&Z meeting that he believed the rezoning would have a negative impact upon what he witnessed there; a thriving and diverse community of neighbors who know each other by name. Ty realized during his visit that bringing a commercial development into our neighborhood with all of the transient traffic that would go along with it, would forever alter the nature of our community and our lives here.

And that is exactly what you want as a citizen from a planning commissioner; someone who will take the time to delve into the details. He and 4-other P&Z commissioners also voted against this.

That didn’t matter to the all-powerful board. They managed to completely maneuver around that inconvenience but it did take some posturing to make that happen.

At to Bob Minnick, he betrayed us, the citizens of his district, in favor of developers who don’t even live in this county and don’t even own the land in question.

In hindsight it isn’t that much of a surprise he voted against the citizens of his district. I don’t think any of my neighbors nor I voted for him. We all had signs in our yards for Rudy.

It is likely that if the polling-place hadn’t been changed to St. Mathews just before the election, confusing many, that Rudy would have prevailed in that last election. If you remember, Bob won by only a handful, less than 10, votes.

We supported Rudy Butler because he supported us. Rudy came to our neighborhood meetings, not the meeting required of rezoning applicants by P&Z. He came to that one as well but he also came to our own neighborhood meetings to listen to our concerns.

After that last election, my neighbors and I tried to keep open minds about Bob. We talked with him and he seemed to listen, smiling and nodding his head.

We invited Bob to similar neighborhood meetings. He never showed though, begging off for one reason or another. The fix was in. Minds were made up.

This is the board that completely ignored their own planning commission’s nearly unanimous recommendation to deny this rezoning as well as their own county comprehensive plan.

I hope the citizens of Goochland as well as the elected officials of our School Board and other officials in the government take note of the heavy-hand and deaf ears of this body.

Watch out for the all-powerful board.