Sunday, December 29, 2013

Strategery part next

Goochland’s supervisors continued to work on their short term strategic plan during a December 3 workshop. They focused, under the guidance of consultant Lori Strumpf, retained to facilitate the task, on vision, mission statement, and goals.
Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, expects the strategic plan will help supervisors make decisions based on carefully considered, long-rang priorities.

Master plans for utilities and fire-rescue, expected to be ready in the first half of 2014, should help the county and landowners identify where, and how, growth deemed appropriate by Goochland—not dictated by legislative fiat--will occur.

Strumpf contends—and has the track record to support her insights—that defining vision, mission statement, and goals and communicating their meaning to everyone in an organization can be a transformational experience. She believes that used properly, these items, often dismissed as buzzwords, are very powerful tools that can spur an organization to excellence.

Distilling vision, mission, and goals into brief, meaningful statements, however, is a daunting task.

The discussion provided evidence that this board understands that local government exists to serve the citizens and that the job of county employees is to provide excellent customer service.

One of this board’s primary goals is to keep taxes low and stable while ensuring excellent delivery of core governmental services. These include: law enforcement, education, and fire-rescue. Indeed, Goochland was ranked 85th out of the 95 counties in the Commonwealth for per capita spending, at $2,092.05 per person. (See the entire list at:

While control of cost is important, maintaining an acceptable level of citizen services—whatever that may be--is also crucial. But, just how do you know if the citizens are satisfied with their treatment by local government?

Peterson contended that everyone who interfaces with county government needs an opportunity to provide feedback to gauge operational effectiveness. Some citizens have very little contact with county government, others may have a great deal of interaction, and that can vary from year to year.

Strumpf observed that there is a difference between satisfaction with, and trust in, local government. She suggested including an interface option of some sort on the county website to supplement periodic inclusive customer satisfaction surveys. Citizens need to see reaching out for their input as a regular part of government activity not a once in a while gesture, she said.
Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 said that he would like to see feedback results tabulated at least annually so the board can see how the team is doing in the eyes of the citizens. He said that would identify problem areas that need to be addressed, which will help build trust.

Strumpf, who conducted anonymous focus group sessions with a random sample of county residents, said that some groups contended that they have no voice in local government and that the board and county staff are not reaching out to them. She suggested that perhaps more could be done to eliminate this perception of non-engagement.
As the officials elected in 2011 have worked hard to solicit opinions from all of their constituents, it would seem that those who contend they have no voice have made no attempt to contact their elected officials.
Strumpf asked “what does success look like?”

Initial responses focused on demonstrable evidence of excellent stewardship, especially where money management is concerned. The supervisors concurred that working toward a clean certified annual financial report every year as external confirmation that the county is doing things right should be at or near the top of the list.

Ned Creasey, District 3, said that he wants Goochland County to be a leader in all facets of local government operations to “act as a yardstick that other counties measure themselves against.”

Getting from lofty visions to concrete action requires a competent, well-trained, and motivated workforce. Peterson contended that county employees, in order to perform at their best, need to know that the supervisors value them by investing in training, equipment and adequate compensation.
Strumpf reiterated that the vision should be short, easy to remember, and “help people know how to behave when no one is looking.”

She used Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” and Steve Jobs’ “a computer on every desk” as examples of a vision intuitively understandable without going into details.

The supervisors searched for words to describe an ideal Goochland. The list included good stewardship; trust in those who make local government decisions; respect; transparency; fiscal integrity; concern for those who fall through the socioeconomic cracks; and protection of personal freedom.

They want to put policies in place that will set the bar of integrity and stewardship high for those who follow. Indeed, in earlier session, the supervisors identified change in the management team, which includes supervisors and county staff, as a potential threat. Right now, Goochland seems to be in sweet spot with supervisors, school board members and staff in both school and county working well together for common goals. That could change.

As Goochland can be likened to the proverbial seven blind men and an elephant—each interpolates the entire animal by the piece he touches—finding uniting themes and aspirations in a diverse population is difficult.

The completed short term strategic plan—looking out about three years--is expected to be a relatively brief document with a three page executive summary to help citizens digest it, Strumpf said.

She will distill the sentiments of the December meeting into a preliminary document that the supervisors will review at a January 7 workshop. Citizens will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed plan before it is adopted some time in 2014.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Board ends year with a full schedule

Following a morning strategic plan workshop on December 3, the Goochland Board of Supervisors addressed routine county business at its afternoon session.

School Superintendent Dr. James Lane presented an update on school matters.

As of November 15, there are 2,465 students attending Goochland Schools; the fiscal 2014 budget was based on 2,311 students. Randolph elementary’s enrollment now stands at 445.

Our school division was awarded a $50,000 grant to investigate the feasibility of year round classes at RES. Lane emphasized that this will be an opt in program only, that there is no intention of putting children from the same family in different instruction blocs.

In addition to having a graduation rate above 90 percent, Goochland is one of the top three school divisions in the region according to achievement metrics. Our students scored more than five points ahead of all others in the region in writing. Lane contended that writing best illustrates mastery of critical thinking, which is the composite of other skill sets, far better than multiple choice tests.

Interestingly, a Saturday, December 7 newspaper promotion featuring the Parke at Saddle Creek in Centerville touted the availability of nationally acclaimed schools. This is a good sign.

Lane’s presentation, available in Part A of the board packet on the county website, includes several explanatory links about the initiatives in progress and is well worth a look.

Economic development director Matt Ryan had little to report. He said that the permitting for the Centerville McDonald’s is complete, but had no idea when construction might begin. In spite of the worry about run away development in Centerville, not much has happened. The apartments and medical office building in West Creek, opposite the Wawa are moving along.

The rural economic development committee--created to explore business opportunities that promote the county’s bucolic attributes--has begun its work. It is expected to make some recommendations next year concerning support for agribusiness and agritourism.

Mike Cade, residency administrator for the VDOT Ashland Residency, informed the board that the signal warrant study for the Hockett/Broad Street Road intersection had been completed and did not indicate the need for signalization. Cade said that he received the results shortly before the meeting and had no other information. (The full report was circulated by GOMM via email on December 10.)

What? Martians understand the interest, and concerns, that people in Goochland have about the hazardous conditions at that corner, and have had for years. That a representative of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—would announce those findings with no details is beyond belief.

On the up side, the county intends to oversee the engineering design of the realignment of Ashland/Hockett Road to funnel all but local traffic through the parcel of land south of Broad Street Road where Ashland Road now ends. Giving county staff control on this project should help to ensure that construction will be done right the first time. While outside professionals will need to be retained for parts of this project, county staff involvement should prevent a replay of the high weird that haunted the widening of Rt. 250 through Centerville.

The supervisors authorized acceptance of the old school bus maintenance facility property. This will make development of that parcel possible after the buildings have been removed. Liability insurance in place will cover any environmental issues, but, as pointed out by Susan Lascolette, District 1, there are no known hazards on the site, nor is there reason to believe that there is any environmental damage. Deputy County Administrator for Finance John Wack reported that remarks from school staff supported that.

Following completion of normal afternoon business, the board adjourned to its conference room for a workshop on pending state and federal storm water management regulations. Responsibility for monitoring water pollution issues, to further clean up the Chesapeake Bay, is devolving to local governments. This means more regulations, which will require hiring more people to oversee and enforce those rules. The county must adopt new storm water runoff mitigation rules, which include policies and ordinances, by April 1, 2014. No one is in favor of dirty water, but it seems like environmental protection has morphed into an expensive monster that defies common sense.

A public hearing on the latest version of the proposed ordinance to deal with nuisance companion animals will come before the supervisors at their January 7 meeting. County attorney Norman Sales said that, after a much discussion with responsible dog owners, the old ordinance will be repealed to be replaced with a simpler, more straight forward, version. This is in the December board packet.

Following public hearings in the evening session, the supervisors approved rezoning of 73.69 acres on the north side of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway in eastern Goochland from A-2 to RPUD (residential planned unit development) to accommodate the construction of up to 115 upscale homes in a subdivision dubbed “Tuckahoe Creek.”

The parcel was also added to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District in a deft “horse trade” in which the developer will expand and oversize utility lines to include a loop in the water line in return for the county waiving some utility connection fees. (See the performance agreement in the Board packet part B.)

These improvements are expected to eliminate the need to flush existing water lines. As the county buys this water from Henrico, the flushing, essentially dumping water on the ground, the improvements will save the county utility system a good bit of money and mitigate water issues in the area.

The developers will pay full cash proffers and worked with Kinloch homeowners to ensure that Tuckahoe Creek, whose lots and homes will be smaller than those in Kinloch, enhances the area. Turn lanes at the main entrance, though not required by VDOT, will be built by the developer.

Additional high-end homes close to Centerville should help to make the Broad Street Road corridor more attractive to businesses wishing to cater to the “carriage trade.”

Goochland’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly--65th District Delegate Lee Ware; 56th District Delegate Peter Farrell and 22nd District Senator Tom Garrett—is to be commended for securing the legislative change to the rules governing adjusting the boundaries of service districts, which made this possible.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasonal music on December 10

The Virginia Benefit Chorale
will be performing at
Grace Episcopal Church
this Tuesday evening, December 10 at 8PM.
Please bring a can of food for the Food Bank!

This acapella groups makes truly beautiful music. Grace Episcopal Church is located on River Road West in Goochland Courthouse Village, roughly opposite the courthouse green.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Time for sharing

For those of you blessed with an extra bean or two, this is the time for giving to worthy causes.
In these fragile economic times, it seems like there are more non-profit organizations than ever competing for your attention, and money.
Please consider donating close to home to organizations in our community that lend a hand to those in need and make our world a better place.
The following groups do an outstanding job of making the world a little brighter:

• The Goochland Christmas Mother—this year we have a Christmas Mother and Father, Elizabeth and Marc Jones—provides Christmas cheer for those in need. Mail contributions to P O Box 322, Goochland, Virginia 23063. Visit the website at

• Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services traces its beginnings to a group of local women who wanted to help people in need who were not eligible for state or federal assistance. It has grown into an organization that provides access to healthcare and basic human services for those in need. As more people fall”through the cracks” the need for GFCFS help grows. Send checks to P O Box 116, Goochland, Virginia 23063, or visit their website:

• An amazing group of community volunteers who work as Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA for short, are the eyes and ears of the court and the voice of children adrift in our legal system. The dedication of these wonderful people who volunteer their time and talents to help children is a tribute to the human spirit. Funded by ever diminishing grant dollars, Goochland CASA puts every donated Penney to good use. Send donations to: Goochland CASA P O Box 910, Goochland, VA 23063. Visit the CASA website at

• The Goochland School Board has worked hard to keep the school budget in check. The Goochland Education Foundation works to obtain private and public funding through grants and donations to enrich and maximize learning and fine arts opportunities with a focus on rigor, relevance, and respect. Send donations to: Tom Deweerd, Registered Agent, Goochland Education Foundation, 2938-I River Road West, Goochland, Virginia 23063. Visit the website at

• Last, but certainly not least, are our furry friends. For the Love of Animals in Goochland, FLAG, is our local animal rescue group. FLAG volunteers rescue and foster pets discarded or otherwise in peril, gets them healthy, and places them in suitable homes. They too spend every penny wisely, and close to home. Send donations to FLAG, P O Box 115, Manakin Sabot, VA 23103. Visit them online at

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

An early Christmas present

The most significant item on the December 3 agenda of the Goochland Board of Supervisors, delivery of the Certified Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for fiscal 2013, which ended on June 30, got little notice. It should have been heralded with trumpets.
The nasty memories of fiscal Christmas past are fading and the positive of Christmas yet to come is here.
The CAFR was presented by Mike Garber, a principal with the firm of PBMares, which succeeded the firm of KPMG as outside auditors for the county.
Now available in all its glory under the finance department tab on the county website, the latest CAFR paints a very different picture than years of old. This document includes a lot of interesting information about the county in addition to the numbers and is well worth a perusal.
Following a detailed review of every county and school department, PBMares identified three minimal issues, which had been corrected when the CAFR was presented.
The report includes a “clean opinion” of county finances. However, due to the scary stuff in previous years, Goochland is considered to be “high risk” until it receives two CAFRs with “no findings.”
Board chair Ken Peterson, District 5, asked Garber how Goochland compares with other localities. Garber replied that Goochland “has come a long way” and can now be ranked with counties in Northern Virginia for “how you are managed and run.”
These supervisors, compelled to run by what they believed was a total failure of stewardship on the part of their predecessors, is committed to excellent and transparent management of local government.
Indeed, they are working toward the establishment of a bond rating for Goochland to aid in future borrowing and provide additional external scrutiny of county finances to act as a “canary in the coal mine” for early warnings of difficulties.
Getting from there to here was not the result of a magic spirit but lots of hard work, dedication, and commitment by the county administrator, board, county, and school staffs. Goochland Treasurer, Pam Johnson has also worked above and beyond the call of duty to set Goochland’s fiscal house in order and pledges to keep it that way.
Perhaps the best indication of how well an organization is run and managed is how handles its finances. Things are good and getting better. It was not always so.
Five years ago, the state of Goochland County finances was, at best, undeterminable, at worst in shambles. Revelations of uncashed checks tucked away in the files of the utility department proved to be the tip of a very deep and bizarre iceberg.
In the next few years, thanks largely to District 3 supervisor Ned Creasey’s refusal to stop asking embarrassing questions about county finances, we learned that the same accounting firm that closed Goochland’s books each year was performing the annual audit, and had done so for a long time. This is—to use a not so technical term—an absolute no no.
When a new accounting firm was retained to perform the annual audit, dozens of errors, known as material restatements in auditor lingo, came to light. Although subsequent CAFRs resulted in improvement, the havoc wreaked on county operations was significant, perhaps criminally so. We may never know how much money evaporated.
Meanwhile, the former treasurer was embezzling public funds and is now a guest of the Commonwealth.
To cover its own nether parts, the previous regime postponed investigation of malfeasance by the former auditors until the statute of limitations—the period in which charges may be filed—expired, thereby sweeping the whole matter under the metaphorical rug.
The bad is past, but must not be forgotten lest it be repeated.
By the way, today, December 5, is the due date for county taxes. Take comfort in the fact that your tax dollars are well spent.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Tis the season

There’s no place like Goochland for the holidays!
Even though there may be some leftover turkey lurking in the fridge, the Christmas season is here.
The next week is brimming with holiday happenings close to home.
Bethlehem Walk, the annual production of Salem Baptist Church, runs from Wednesday, December 4 through Sunday, December 8. Hard work and dedication transform a site on the south side of Broad Street Road a bit west of Centerville into a very special place in a very special time. The tour is outside and takes about 45 minutes, so dress appropriately for the weather. The event is free, but a canned good is requested for the local food bank. Visit for details.
Goochland’s community Christmas tree, located on the grounds of the YMCA on River Road West in Courthouse Village, will be officially lit on Friday, December 6. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 and includes caroling, holiday activities, cookies and a visit from Santa at 7.
The sugar plum fairy and cohorts will make an appearance at presentations of The Nutcracker, a seasonal favorite, by the Concert Ballet of Richmond hosted by Benedictine College Preparatory located on River Road. Performances will be at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 7, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 8. Tickets are $12. Visit for details.
Centerville Company 3 will hold its annual Santa Breakfast at its station, located at 52 Broad Street Road in Centerville, from 7 to 10 a.m. on December 7. All are welcome to enjoy a hot cooked to order breakfast and a chat with a certain Jolly elf. This is a great way to get to know the fine folks who respond to 911 calls.
Fife Company 4 will also hold a Santa breakfast at its station on Hadensville-Fife Road beginning at 8 a.m.
Field Day of the Past will open its grounds on Ashland Road between 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Admission is a donation for the 2013 Christmas Parents, Elizabeth and Marc Jones. Take a stroll through times gone by to remember simpler times and the true meaning of Christmas.
Manakin Company 1 will have a very special ride along when it visits neighborhoods in its territory with emergency apparatus on Sunday, December 8. Please visit for details.
Enjoy one, or all, but leave all “bah, humbugs” at home.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fifty years

Site of fatal shot (Bob Warwick photo)

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, about half way through social studies, the next to the last class of the day, Walter Langhorst announced to his class that the president of the United States of America had been shot in Dallas. A few minutes later, the president's death was announced over the public address system. School was closed, sending everyone home until after the holiday.

The expected exuberance of adolescents freed from the shackles of the school room was replaced by a nervous quiet. Conversations were held in low tones barely louder than a whisper. No one knew what to think. Death was something that happened to elderly relations, or unknown uncles killed "in the war."

The news was almost impossible to absorb. The president was dead. Our parents remembered the death of another president not quite a generation earlier. But that, everyone seemed to agree, was different. That president had been ill and was older.

Dallas was in Texas, a place we associated with cowboys and the Alamo. It might as well have been on the dark side of the moon.

A sense of unease permeated the land. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a recent—and terrifying memory. The adolescents learned to “duck and cover” in kindergarten. Annihilation by nuclear bomb was an accepted possibility.

America gathered around its television sets and watched the same snippets of film over and over. Everything was cancelled, except church. Citizens exercised their freedom of religion to attend worship services and pray for the repose of the soul of the young president. Tuning in to watch throngs files past his coffin as he lay in state in D. C., they were in time to see the purported assassin himself gunned down leaving way too many unanswered questions.

On Monday, the world watched the funeral replete with tradition, dignity, and pathos. The nation wept as one when the little boy in the blue coat saluted his father one last time.

Families gathered for Thanksgiving, all too aware of the fragility of life. Things got back to normal and life went on.
Before the decade was over, America would deal with two more assassinations. An ugly, incomprehensible, and far away war would become a daily staple on the nightly news.

Fast forward a half century to Dealey Plaza, the site of the Dallas assassination. The adolescents of 1963 will soon be pensioners. America has been to the moon and back.

Built as a WPA project during the 1930’s, Dealey Plaza seems frozen in time. Standing behind the pillar where Abraham Zapruder filmed the crime of the century gives the sensation of being in a video game.

Two large crosses are painted in the center lane to denote the exact position of the presidential limousine when the shots were fired. Tourists routinely dodge traffic to pose for pictures where the kill shot hit its target in 1963.
Tourists dodge traffic for macabre mementoes of Dealey Plaza (Bob Warwick photo)

A museum about the assassination occupies the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building, where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have built a sniper nest. Countless alternatives to the official scenario exist. We may never know what really happened, or why.

The iconic words spoken by John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961--ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country—are tragically ironic in the America of 2013 where far too many contribute nothing and expect much.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The resolution?

On November 5, Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner dismissed a case brought against Benedictine College Preparatory School (BCP) and the county by neighboring property owners who contended that the plan of development for the River Road property was improperly approved and did not adequately address downstream storm water runoff.

Andrew Thexton, who lives on the north side of River Road several hundred yards to the east, presented compelling evidence during last summer’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) hearing that changes made to the BCP entrance, including turn lanes, resulted in storm water being channeled into the crawlspace of his home after heavy rains.

Sanner also ruled that the BZA had no jurisdiction in the matter and that the neighbors had no standing to challenge the POD nullifying the entire BZA proceedings.

The county has incurred legal bills greater than $100,000 since the start of 2013. Goochland County and BCP began working on the POD process shortly after the conditional use permit allowing the relocation of the venerable educational institution from Richmond to Goochland was approved in December, 2011.

Sanner explained that he spent “considerable time” reviewing briefs and exhibits submitted to the court by both sides in the dispute. The judge commented that he sympathized with the plight of a homeowner who, through no fault of his own, incurs possible damage to his house caused by activities on nearby land.

He said that there is no basis in state or county law for neighbors who are not a party to a POD are considered “strangers” and not eligible to contest it. Sanner also remarked that he found the applicable sections of the Code of Virginia written in “unusually opaque language.” If the statute is trying to provide a remedy, it should be more explicit, he said.
Attorneys on both sides presented their version of “harmonizing” of conflicting applicable laws from the general to the specific and back again.

Sanner suggested that the parties might want to encourage their representatives in the General Assembly to craft specific and understandable statues to guide local government in this kind of situation. Indeed, legislators on both sides of the aisle need to stop their attempts at social engineering and pass useful and understandable laws.

The county’s POD process has been upheld. Classes began at BCP in September. Those residents of the River Road corridor that opposed having the school in their midst have likely not changed their mind, and the sun came up in the morning.
The POD process is quite complicated and can involve securing approval from state agencies including the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”.

If indeed the changes to the BCP entrance resulted in an increase in the amount of storm water runoff being channeled onto Thexton’s property, the situation must be mitigated. The BCP move has generated much bitterness, which further complicated land use processes. Regardless of culpability, the county has an obligation to ensure that development does no harm to neighboring properties.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Supermarket ads are starting to feature turkeys. Hostesses are counting plates and digging out family recipes. Before we go full tilt into the cranberry-pumpkin holiday frenzy, we need to stop and give thanks tomorrow to those who made it all possible--our veterans.

At 11 a.m. On Monday, November 11, Goochland American Legion Post 215 will hold its annual Veteran's Day observance at Goochland High School.  There will be music and flags and a speaker. The audience will be peppered with those who, as veritable youngsters, answered their country's call.

Perhaps next year, our soon to begin Marine junior ROTC will handle color guard duties. Happy 238th birthday Marines!

Not that long ago, it was the custom for everything to stop at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the guns in "the war to end all wars" fell silent, to remember the fallen.

After 95 years of many different wars, including the one against global evil that still rages, honoring those who serve is still appropriate.

Our World War I vets are all gone. The kids who left farm and factory to fight, and die, in places they hardly knew existed in World War II are leaving us at an alarming rate. The guys who "participated in the police action" in awful places like the frozen hell of the Chosin Reservoir aren't far behind. 

The Viet Nam era vets, whose treatment by the spoiled brat members of the anti-war movement when they returned home must never be repeated, are also getting a little long in the tooth, as are those who served in Desert Storm.

Recent returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan are taking their place in the long line of ordinary folks who put on the uniform to protect our way of life. They do not make the decisions about when and where to fight, that is left up to the politicians elected by a steadily shrinking number of citizens.

As you settle into the day's football after worshipping--or not--in the church of your choice, remember those who left the security of home to serve.

It's not hard to find a vet to thank. They come home and enrich their communities in ways large and small. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


After spending most of the past two years putting out inherited fires, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors is now looking to the future by appropriating funds to hire a consultant to help in the creation of a short term (three years out) strategic plan.

Strumpf Associates: Center for Strategic Change was retained to handle the task. Principal Lori Strumpf, who has worked on regional workforce groups with District 4 Supervsior Bob Minnick, has been conducting citizen focus group sessions to gather information about what stakeholders—people who live and work, including county employees, in Goochland—believe are the most important issues facing the county in the near term.

Unlike some other consultants that have “advised” Goochland in the past, most notably the clueless clowns from Charlottesville foisted on us by VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “oops!”—as part of the failed urban development initiatve, Strumpf “gets it.” She has worked with a number of jurisdictions in essentially the same boat as Goochland.
On Monday, October 28, the supervisors and County Adminsitrator Rebecca Dickson, spent most of the day in a workshop with Strumpf. The session was one of exploration. “No problem solving today,” Strumpf admonished at the start.
Strategy, said Strumpf, is identifying known knowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns.  Dealing with the last category requires being able to see around the curves and be flexbile enough to deal with them.
To ensure that an organization meets and exceeds expectations, focus should be on continuous quality improvement.

Ned Creasey District 3 contended that people want transparaency in government, but do not participate in government and spread misinformation rather than try to understand what os going on.

Indeed, citizen engagement or a lack thereof, was a thread that wove through the entire day’s discussion.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr., Distirct 2 commented that citizens fill public hearings when matters that concern them are on the agenda, but pretty much ignore what county government is doing most of the time. He cited the kerfuffle about proposed revisions to the ordiance regarding nusisance companion animals. 

This board is scrupulous about restricting its closed session deliberations and live streams all meetings in an effort to be transparent. The county and school system put their check registers on the county website for easy perusal, yet few seem to take advantage of this openness.

Going forward, an engaged citizenry is needed to support and maintain policies put in place now to ensure that the positive momentum generated by this board continues. It will also supply future leaders to ensure continuity of sound policies being put into place right now.

The board listed outside forces, over which it has no control, and pose serious threats. These included: continued devolution of services and functions from the state to local level with no funds to ease the transition; unfunded mandates in general; ensuring that economic development keeps pace with an escalating debt burden; how to balance the burgeoning demand for services (law enforcement, fire-rescue, and schools)generated by growth with the ability to fund them; national economy; and stresses between the rural and not so rural parts of the county. The proposed dog ordinance is a clear illustration of this.

One comment that surfaced in many of the small focus groups (one public one was held that evening) was that Goochland needs to decide what it wants to be when it grows up. The alternatives include: bedroom   community; a rural community or a business community. The supervisors did not seem inclined to choose one over the other, but favored all three in appropriate areas.

Strumpf also reported that very few respondents were totally against any growth. Most believe that some growth is necessary, but that it must be the right kind of growth that does not impinge on the rural nature of the county. She also stated that the term “rural” needs a  concise definition.
The question of what kind of business is acceptable and who makes that decision was also raised. Many people, she contended, would be happy to see a WalMart headquarters in West Creek but do not want a WalMart store in the county.

This board has so far opted to support core functions of the government—law enforcement, fire-rescue and schools—as it determines the role of local government.

Some focus group participants favored the county funding internet deployment to the entire county; supporting farmers markets, wineries, and festivials to bring in agritourism.

Board chair Ken Peterson, District 5, contended that it is the county’s job to “set the table” to encourage a wide range of economic activity.

Indeed,ideally, local government’s job is to act as a catalyst and create an environment that attracts private capital. The county should not be in the internet business, or the farmers market business or any other business driven by market forces. Entrepreneurs are able to react to changes faster and better than hide bound government entities. an infusion  of tax dollars won’t fix a strugggling enterprise.

Strumpf said that some respondents believed that the current real estate tax rates are too low and need to be increased to fund new schools and sufficient law enforcement. The supervisors understand that no all property owners are able to absorb a tax rate increase, and higher taxes make Goochland less competitive with its neighbors.

There is a conflict between those who want local government increase regulation to protect residents from actions taken by others that adversely affect them versus those who want more freedom to do as they please on their own land. This issue will get more contentious as the county’s population density increases. The dog noise and brewery road issues are the latest examples of this.

Goochland Schools, contrary to widely held public beliefs, actually rank highly in most metrics of  local education quality. Strumpf said that some focus group participants contended that perpetuation of that belief controls residential growth. Others contend that busting that myth will help to attract businesses to locate here.

There is concern that an influx of new homes filled with young families could swamp the school system. The school board is trying to predict the number of students generated by the new subdivisions on the horizon. As the county’s population ages, the potential for homes owned by older folks to be bought by families with children is very real, and probably impossible to gauge. Susan Lascolette, District 1, contended that young families add stability to a community and should be viewed as an asset, rather than a liability.

An analysis of strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat(SWOT) ensued.

Perhaps the most important current strength is that the supervisors work well with each other, the school board, and the county staff, a paradigm shift from the previous regime. This too could be a weakness, because the personal dynamic of this group could change.

Susan Lascolette, District 1 said that the massive turnout in county leadership that resulted from the 2011 elections turned out well, but could have been different. She hoped to find a strategy to ensure continuity in leadership going forward.

Strumpf encouraged the supervisors to craft a vision to help citizens understand--and buy into--the county's focus.

The supervisors will continue to meet and discuss the strategic plan and present the product to citizens early next year.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trial by jury

Uriah Harris of Henrico, accused of savagely beating a Goochland special education teacher in the parking lot of the middle school last December 5, requested a trial by jury as is his right.

That trial, at which Harris represented himself after firing several court appointed attorneys, took place in Goochland Circuit Court on October 31, Halloween.

Court spectators included some teachers, representatives of the Richmond media, which only comes to Goochland for bad things, District 3 school board member John Lumpkins and, briefly, Dr. James Lane, superintendent of schools.

The bizarre manner in which Harris conducted his own “defense,” seemed appropriate for the date.
Under our system of law, opting for a jury rather than a bench trial, when the judge hears the evidence and arguments before pronouncing a verdict, provides an opportunity for the defense to create enough reasonable doubt about guilt to lead to acquittal. 

The Harris jury, comprised of eight women and two men, reached a unanimous guilty decision less than 15 minutes, and swiftly recommended a prison sentence of 16 years.

Goochland’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, D. Michael Caudill acted as prosecutor. Among the evidence he presented as proof that Harris was guilty as charged, was a video recorded by the security camera from the Middle School parking lot, where the crime occurred on December 5, 2012. This clearly showed the victim walking out of the school, Harris driving up and attacking her between parked cars.
Harris, who has been incarcerated since he was arrested last December, appeared in court in a business suit. To ensure the safety of all present, at least 10 Goochland deputies surrounded him at all times. He contended that his Constitutional rights under the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments had been violated. He repeatedly insisted that the wording of his indictment was incorrect.

Jurors watched this video twice in open court, once when the victim was on the stand, again during testimony of one of the teachers who came to her rescue.

The rescuers, husband and wife middle school teachers of slender build, who did not hesitate to intervene heedless to their own safety, gave their students a real life object lesson in good citizenship.

According to convincing testimony by the victim and her rescuers, Harris grabbed the victim, pushed her to the ground and beat her with his hands and fists and pounded her head into the asphalt of the parking lot, displaying “greater rage, anger, and violence than I had ever seen before.” Eventually, Harris walked away and drove off.

The husband described screams from the victim as sounding like a hurt dog. Both said that in comparison to Harris, who is a tall, muscular man, the victim looked like a middle school student.

Deputy Stephen Creasey, the first on the scene, helped EMTs stabilize and prepare the victim for transport.
While rolling the victim to her side in order to put her on a backboard, a he found a knife lying under her.
An emergency room doctor from the MCV trauma center testified that the victim was concussed and needed nine staples to close a scalp wound.

Although he said in a brief opening statement that the whole truth would be revealed during, the trial, Harris offered neither a shred of evidence nor a syllable of refutation of testimony in his defense. In a brief cross examination of the victim, he alluded to texts sent by the victim, but failed to produce proof that they existed.
During the penalty phase of the trial, when his previous convictions were disclosed to the jury, Harris held up a copy of his criminal record and said “that’s a hell of a rap sheet.” He professed his love for the victim, but failed to explain how that affection resulted in a beating. Harris also told the jury that he had two children and did not want to be away from them.

Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner, who worked hard to ensure that Harris’ rights were protected, told the jury that it was empowered to recommend a sentence of not less than five, nor more than 20 years and a fine up to $100,000.

The victim testified that she still has some neurological deficits resulting from the beating, including vertigo and memory issues.

Final sentencing will take place on January 7, 2014. Harris seems to have indicated that the verdict will be appealed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Priming the pump

In the current fragile economy, competition to attract and retain businesses is fierce among jurisdictions. As revenue generated by real estate taxes shrinks in the face of growing demand for services, local governments are turning to incentive packages to bolster economic development efforts.

Goochland is still behind the curve on this one. Our neighbors to the east and northeast are able to offer those willing to set up shop inside their borders some tasty carrots that we can only dream about.
Instead of hand wringing, the county is working with the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to find ways to prime the economic development pump without breaking the bank.

The Goochland EDA discussed possible mechanisms to nurture expansion for companies already here and make an under-performing industrial park more attractive to newcomers on October 23. (Although it works closely with the county, under state law, the EDA is a separate entity.)

Matt Ryan, Goochland Director of Economic Development, explained that fees to connect to Tuckahoe Creek Service District water and sewer lines can cause businesses to leave Goochland for places free of these fees.

Waiving fees, even for one company, could set a dangerous and expensive precedent.

To that end, Ryan presented a draft of an expansion grant and loan application. While the terms
may seem strict, Ryan said, they are less stringent than those required by a bank.

Applicants must have an operating, duly licensed business in the TCSD. They must be free of tax liens and current on all tax obligations. Financial statements should indicate that the business is either currently profitable, or present a business plan that details expectations of future profitability. They must be 21 years old and either U. S. citizens or have long term alien residency status.

The EDA will determine the maximum amount of loans and grants. The draft proposed $10,000 for grants and $15,000 for loans.  Interest rates, expected to be lower than those offered by a bank and term of the loan, not to exceed five years, would be determined by the EDA. In the event of non-compliance with conditions, the loan would be called.

Fiscal and economic impact statements will also be required of applicants.
The EDA was instrumental in encouraging the Aw Shucks convenience store and car wash on Pouncey Tract Road in the northeastern corner of the county to extend TCSD water and sewer lines. Not only did this expedite the launch a new county business, but it also helped mitigate some stale water issues.
After years of heartburn, the roads in the Midpoint Industrial Park, located close to the Interstate 64 exit at Hadensville, may soon be paved and turned over to VDOT for maintenance.

These improvements will be funded using the proceeds from a road bond posted when the park was created more than 10 years ago and essentially lost in the financial meltdown shuffle for a few years. The EDA and county will split the difference between the actual paving cost and bond dollars.

Although its location, close to the interstate and almost exactly half way between Richmond and Charlottesville, seems ideal, Midpoint has languished.

Those involved—the EDA owns some lots—are hopeful that this step will renew interest in the park and generate some development there.
The EDA can be a great resource to help bring new business to Goochland and help those here prosper and expand. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Veterans welcome in Goochland

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew circulated the news that his agency has been recognized by the Military Times for its efforts in recruiting military veterans.

Hiring veterans, who bring a strong work ethic and personal discipline to the job, is a good way to help these fine people transition from military to civilian life. We owe our veterans, volunteers all, a debt of gratitude.

The text of the October 21, 2013 press release:

Military Times Announces its Best for Vets: Law Enforcement 2014

List details the top agencies that cater to former service members

SPRINGFIELD, VA – Military Times today announces its Best for Vets: Law Enforcement list for 2014.

The list shows veterans which agencies make special efforts to recruit veterans, give them hiring preferences over non-vets, provide retirement credit for time served in the military, and are currently hiring.

“As with all of the Best for Vets rankings, Best for Vets: Law Enforcement is an editorially independent news project that evaluates the many factors that make an organization or agency a good fit for military veterans,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Military Times EDGE.
Best for Vets provides service men and women a gauge by which to judge whether a law enforcement agency will truly benefit them. The list considers agencies’ efforts to recruit current and former service members, policies related to veterans and reservists, and departmental culture.
The rankings are published in full in the October issue of Military Times EDGE magazine and online at, as well as,, and Some of the top finishers are also featured in the October 21st issues of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times on newsstands the week of October 14th.
Military Times EDGE is the premier publication for military transition, career and education information and guidance. Published by Gannett Government Media, the magazine is inserted into newsstand copies of Army Times, Navy Times, Marine Corps Times and Air Force Times, and distributed free at military transition offices across the country.

The heralded series of Best for Vets survey-based rankings include: Law Enforcement, Employers, Colleges, Business Schools, Franchises, and Career & Technical Colleges.
The agencies named Best for Vets: Law Enforcement 2014:
- Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Florida
- City of Austin Police Department, Texas*
- Culpeper County Sheriff's Office, Virginia.
- Denver Police Department, Colorado.*
- Veterans Affairs Department: Greater Los Angeles Health Care System Police Service, California.*
- Dyer County Sheriff's Office, Tennessee
- Goochland Sheriff's Office, Virginia
- Harris County Sheriff's Office, Texas
- Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Florida.*
- Honolulu Police Department, Hawaii
- Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, D.C.
- Mukilteo Police Department, Washington
- Office of Law Enforcement/ Federal Air Marshals, nationwide
- Oklahoma City Police Department, Oklahoma
- Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Florida.*
- Tucson Police Department, Arizizone.*

* Denotes top finisher
To view the complete ranking, go to

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Citizen conversation

Goochland is in the midst of the fall town hall meeting season. These informal sessions, hosted by the supervisor and school board member for each District, provide an opportunity for citizens to learn about what going on in the county and ask questions.
The District 4 meeting, held on October 17 at the Grace Chinese Baptist Church, which is also the District’s new polling place, drew a pretty good crowd. It was hosted by supervisor Bob Minnick and Beth Hardy of the school board. Those in attendance seemed to be mostly residents of the east end who live in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. These folks, relative newcomers to the county, worked hard to elect Minnick and District 5 supervisor Ken Peterson, current board chair.

(Other meetings will be held as follows: District 5 at the Manakin Fire-Rescue Station on October 24; District 1 at Byrd Elementary School on October 28 and District 2 at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College on October 30. All begin at 7 p.m. All are welcome at all meetings.)

In a departure from past town hall meetings, this go ‘round eschewed power point and choreographed presentations in favor of topics solicited from the audience.

As Goochland is not a one-size-fits-all kind of place, those topics will vary from district to district, though core interests like schools, roads, taxes and services will be discussed.

Unlike our neighbor to the east, which is threatening a real estate tax increase unless its voters approve a meals tax, Goochland is holding its own money wise.

As homeowners in the TCSD pay an ad valorem tax of 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on top of the 53 cents that the rest of the county pays, they are very interested in the TCSD because most of them live there.

Development activity in the TCSD is picking up.

According to County Administrator Rebecca Dickson, all permitting had been completed and approved for the McDonalds, which will be corporately owned, but a franchisee is still being sought. (According to the McDonald’s website, you need at least $750,000 in non-borrowed cash to be considered.  A 25 percent cash down payment is required for existing restaurants, 40 for new sites, like Centerville. The remainder may be financed over seven years. The website gives no particulars about the actual cost of a franchise, which probably varies by location. Franchisees pay monthly service fees of about four percent of sales and rent, which is also a percentage of sales.)
On the residential front, apartments and medical office buildings are under construction in West Creek opposite the Wawa. Several subdivisions have either been recently approved or are in the pipeline. The next phase of Kinloch is also ready to go.

Development of the Broad Street Road corridor between Ashland and Manakin Roads is a delicate task. Care must be taken because a misstep there could take more than a decade to fix, said Minnick.. Identifying the kind of enterprises best suited to this location, who decides that, and how to lure them, has generated endless discussion and no conclusions.

Minnick explained that good economic development results in balance between rooftops and business. He seemed to indicate that building a critical mass of upscale residents in close proximity to Centerville could attract businesses to serve them.

Could all of this activity, which will increase TCSD assessed valuations, lower the ad valorem tax, which services bond debt?

The not so short answer, said Dickson, is “not yet and maybe not for a good while.” While last year’s bond restructuring changed a graphed representation of debt from a steep mountain to an anvil, we have yet to navigate a significant bump in the repayment curve. Right now, with things picking up on the economic development front, the county is confident that all obligations will be met.

Peterson, whose financial acumen played a big part in taming the TCSD debt, explained that the initial repayment schedule was based on the assumption that TCSD land valuation would increase by about 11 percent annually, pretty much forever. That didn’t pan out. Under the new arrangement, a three percent growth rate, which is conservatively realistic, should handle the debt.

The county’s fiscal health was discussed. Minnick, Dickson, and Peterson contended that Goochland is in good shape financially. The tax rates are on target to remain unchanged in 2014. Dickson said that preliminary estimates seem to indicate a slight increase in assessed valuations, while the county is assuming flat values going forward. Peterson pointed out that the county’s maximum total tax rate that in the TCSD including the ad valorem tax is 85 cents, the lowest in the region.

Goochland, Dickson said, hopes to obtain its own bond rating in the next few years. To ensure that is as high as possible the county will use very conservative assumptions and retain careful fiscal control of all operations.

Several people wanted to know why the supervisors were approving new subdivisions--to the tune of several hundred new homes--without significant road improvements.

Dickson explained that Goochland neither builds nor maintains roads, but is dependent on VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “oops!”—for transportation projects.  The county must go through a cumbersome process for VDOT to even consider a locally initiated project. A traffic signal at the corner of Broad and Hockett/St. Matthew’s Lane, for instance, has not been built because traffic there does not cross the traffic threshold to justify its existence.
Several developers have put up significant amounts of cash to fund that traffic signal when, and if, VDOT approves it.

A VDOT study seeking ways to improve the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road intersection is in the works. Suggestions that a stoplight there would be a quick and dirty, if temporary, way to mitigate the danger there are rebuffed by VDOT.

Hardy and School Superintendent Dr. James Lane gave a brief overview of the good things happening in our education system. He announced that a Marine junior ROTC program will begin next fall; explained the formula for calculating graduation rates; and, perhaps most important of all, that Goochland schools are at or near the top of most metrics that measure school success.
(Visit the school system’s website for a glimpse of all the good things going on there. If you are able, tune in via live stream to the October 22 school board meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. to see our great school board in action.)

The current Board of Supervisors, in office since January, 2012, spent a good part of the past 18 months putting out fires large and small that they inherited. Now that is has reached cruising speed, the board is looking ahead.
Minnick and Dickson explained that several planning initiatives are in the works. Currently, a consultant is gathering input for a short term (two to three years) strategic plan. This is intended to help the supervisors focus on items important to citizens.

A utilities master plan is on the near term agenda as is a strategic plan for fire-rescue. Next year the county will review and revise its comprehensive land use plan.

All of the supervisors; School Board Chair John Wright, District 5; District 4 Planning Commissioner Joe Andrews; Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson; and many county department heads also attended the meeting.
Johnson announced that everyone should receive tax bills by Thanksgiving and should call her office if the bills have not arrived. She also said that the bills will contain new information and encouraged everyone to read them.

These meetings provide a low key way to interact with the officials that spend our tax dollars. They are ready, willing, and able to explain what’s going on in local government. This is yet another indication that all boards are working together to craft solutions to benefit the county as a whole.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kick tire, help athletes

Kick tires, help athletes
Fall means crisp days, colorful leaves, football, and new car models.

This Saturday, October 19, you can help generate funds for both the middle and high school athletes by test driving Fords. (Remember, Ford is the only domestic auto maker that did not take a government hand out.)
All you have to do is come and drive a car. Each test drive will result in a $20 donation to county athletes. 

Only one driver over the age of 18 per household may participate. While you will not be subjected to a sales pitch, you could receive marketing information from Ford in the future.

It should take no more than an hour of your time. The middle school event, featuring Lincolns, will be held at the middle/high school complex from 9 to 5. To support the high school, just go to Parrish Ford, which is a long time community supporter, between 9 and 1. Go to   to sign up. No sign up is required, but priority will be given to those who do.

This is a fun and easy way to help support athletics.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Of horses and dogs

Retired Goochland General District  Court Judge William Talley once opined that cases involving horses or dogs rarely end well.

The October 1 Board of Supervisors’ public hearing agenda included items that addressed both subjects.

Following significant push back from citizen dog owners about a proposed change to the ordinance regulating companion animals, the county went back to the drawing board. The version up for consideration this month did not seem to be any more satisfactory. Many owners of hunting and show dogs filled the board meeting room and explained their concerns about proposed changes to the ordinance.

The county is trying to craft a mechanism to provide redress for residents suffering from incessant barking from dogs on neighboring properties. As the remedy must find a way to deal with immutable facts—dogs bark and sound carries—without impinging on the rights of responsible and conscientious dog owners.
After much discussion during both the afternoon and evening board sessions, the ordinance is back on the drawing board. Another version is expected to be on the November 6 agenda. (Note: the regular November meeting of the supervisors will be held on Wednesday, to avoid Election Day conflicts.)

The “horse” item on the agenda was an application to renew a conditional use application for the Swift Creek School of Equitation on Millers Lane. This enterprise, which has been in operation since 1978, has taught--in addition to horsemanship—love and respect for animals, responsibility and the value of hard work—to several generations. The supervisors unanimously approved the application.

When the current owner of Swift Creek, Gail Thompson, decided to retire, she felt an obligation to her students ensure continuity of the operation. After a careful search, she found the perfect successor and purchaser of the property in Jessica Clise. In order to secure financing for the purchase, Clise needs a 15 year continuation of the CUP.
With the exception of the owner of a house that was formerly part of the Swift Creek property, the neighbors support the existence and continuation of the horse boarding and riding school facility. The dissenting neighbor, who bought her property well after the Swift Creek School of Equitation was established, complained (in person to the planning commission and in writing to the supervisors) about noise, odors, and alleged trespassing of riders. District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey observed that was a little like “buying a house next to the railroad tracks and complaining about train noise.”

A somewhat similar CUP extension was unanimously approved for 800 Broad Street Road near at the intersection of Three Chopt Road west of Centerville, currently the site of Wedgewood Properties. The barn on this parcel was exquisitely renovated for office and storage use to preserve the rural view shed.
Lillian Daniels, the applicant, plans to operate a small mail order theatrical make up business from the site. The proposed use is will generate less traffic than Wedgewood Properties. Daniels plans to live in the adjoining home.

The supervisors also unanimously approved a cell tower CUP application that, while it will benefit the county as a whole, makes some changes to a small residential enclave on Triple Estates Lane, south of Sheppard Town Road.

As cell tower coverage is sketchy in some parts of the county, the applicant, National Communications Towers, LLC, provided propagation maps illustrating signal improvements that would be provided by the tower under discussion.

The tower itself will be built on land owned by Edwin Wilson. Although residents of Triple Estates Lane contended that placement of the tower in a residential area is a departure from the location of existing towers along major highways and in uninhabited areas. They also believe that the tower is not needed.
National Communications explained that the tower base will be screened from view by existing trees and other planted as part of the tower’s construction. Verizon is expected to be the initial provider on the tower. County public safety communications will also be located on the tower. Language to give the county right of first refusal should the tower fall into disuse. Triple Estates Road will be widened and improved by National Tower. The road to the tower will be curved to further obscure the equipment at the tower’s base.
A member of the county assessor’s staff contended that there is ample evidence that location of cell towers in residential areas does not have a negative impact on nearby property values. There is a tower in Rivergate, one of Goochland’s exclusive upscale enclaves.

A video recording of the entire evening session is available on the county website under the livestream tab on the home page.

Land use decisions coming before the supervisors will increase in complexity and number in the coming months. They have demonstrated a willingness to examine the ramifications of changes and are working hard to avoid unintended consequences.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Land use matters

Goochland County’s planning commission—reduced to five members earlier this year—does its homework and plows through agenda items in an effective and efficient manner. This is a nice change from the past.
The downturn in the real estate market drastically reduced the number of rezoning and other land use issues in Goochland. Things slowed down so much that the commission met only on an as needed basis. Now, activity has started to ratchet up as plans of development and residential rezoning applications trickle in.
Perhaps the most significant change in these applications compared to development of old is that lot sizes are now described in square feet rather than acreage. (There are 43,560 square feet in an acre.)
At the Commission’s October 3 meeting, it approved tentative plans of development for Section 8 of Kinloch and The Parke at Pouncey Tract.
It also recommended approval of rezoning 73.69 acres on the north side of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway from A-2 to Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD) to permit construction of 115 homes in a community designated at Tuckahoe Creek. Under RPUD regulations, up to 146 lots could be created on this parcel.
(Note to county, please encourage names that do not include Tuckahoe or Manakin, to avoid future confusion. It’s bad enough that the Postal Service zip codes lump a huge portion of eastern Goochland into the non-geographical Manakin-Sabot entity. There is no Manakin-Sabot. Manakin is on Route 6 and Sabot, also near Route 6, no longer exists. Some folks who live on the eastern edge of the county have Richmond zip codes. Widespread use of GPS reinforces this fiction.)
The density of the proposed Tuckahoe Creek community requires public water and sewer and cannot proceed unless and until this parcel becomes part of the TCSD. A separate initiative to accomplish this will appear on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda in the near future.
Lots in Tuckahoe Creek would be between 70 and 90 feet in width. The applicant contended that upscale housing options in Goochland for those who do not have the ability or inclination to maintain large yards are in short supply. The homes, whose size has not yet been determined, are expected to be priced in the $6-800,000 range. Speakers raised concerns about Tuckahoe Creek having an adverse effect on property values on the Kinloch coach homes, which are also on small lots.
As this parcel is currently in land use, rezoning would result in immediate increased revenue for the county before one teaspoon of dirt is moved. Full cash proffers were included in the application with the expectation that these homes would add 58 students to the county school population. This too is a major change from the olden days when developers contended that folks who buy expensive houses had no impact on the school population.
Properties on Hermitage Road that abut this parcel are several acres each. While the proposal includes vegetative buffers, owners of neighboring land raised concerns that construction of a mandated retention pond will require clear cutting near the eastern boundary, destroy their privacy and reduce property values.
Parties involved in developing Tuckahoe Creek include Tommy Pruitt and William Goodwin who were involved in high quality projects including Keswick Farms and Kiowah Island.
The supervisors are expected to take up this application at their December meeting.
The recurring toothache issue of electronic signage crept into the discussion as the commission addressed a proposed sign for the HCA West Creek Emergency Center. The proposed sign, essentially a dreadful pole mounted billboard that announces the wait at the ER, an image of which was not included in the packet, is intended to help people find their way to the facility located near Rt. 288. This seems to be smaller version of the billboard that glowers over the train yard on Interstate 64.
Although the commission recommended approval of the sign, which is intended only for hospital-like entities, the efficacy of the sign in solving the problem was discussed. It was initiated to help patients find their way to the West Creek emergency Center, which is quite visible from Rte. 288. Figuring out how to get there is another matter.
The proposed sign, which would seriously degrade the view shed, gives no clue how to get there. Installation of more road level directional signage--think blue signs with a big H and arrows pointing in the right direction--would seem to be more effective in solving this problem. Proponents of the sign didn’t quite explain how it would help motorists find their way to the emergency center. The discussion lacked justification for the electronic notice of the waiting time in the ER. Do they believe that folks will pop in for medical if there is a short wait? Not nearly enough information there.
A similar emergency medical facility operated by Bon Secours on Midlothian Turnpike just off of Rt. 288 in Chesterfield has a similar problem but refrains from degrading the landscape with eyesore devices to attract customers.
While the language for the West Creek Emergency Center is extremely narrow, it might be the proverbial camel nose under the tent for future attempts to permit tawdry and annoying signage in Goochland. Electronic signs, like those on Broad Street in Short Pump, do little other than declare desperation for customers. We do not need that here.
The Commission also recommended approval of new setback regulations to eliminate confusion caused by current rules.
An extension of an existing conditional use application for Applegarth Farm on Shallow Well Road was given a thumbs up as was a new CUP application for Clear Choice Auto Brokers to operate a used car dealership in Courthouse Village.
An ordinance to codify “dark sky” lighting requirements, which has been in the works for a while was discussed and passed on to the supervisors. Regulations proposed apply only to new construction and will not require creation of “light police” for enforcement. This is the result of a great deal of thought and hard work by staff and former and current planning commissioners and some supervisors.
Questions posed by commissioners during the meeting indicated that they were familiar with the matters at hand. Comments were short and to the point.

All of the above business was conducted in one hour and 32 minutes.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

No shut down here

As the national news reported details of the federal government shut down, Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors held its regular monthly meeting on October first conducting business as usual.
The afternoon agenda was routine.

Following the annual employee recognition luncheon to honor staff with service anniversaries in five year multiples, the supervisors took a few minutes to present them with plaques. According to county administrator Rebecca Dickson, the honorees represent about 300 collective years of service and associated institutional knowledge.

Up next was recognition of the 265th anniversary of Byrd Presbyterian Church. Located on Dogtown Road, Byrd has provided spiritual sustenance to its congregants in addition to service and compassion for the community that continues to this day with its home repair, feeding the homeless and Habitat for Humanity outreach.

 Board chair Ken Peterson, District 5 (center) reads a letter recognizing Byrd   Presbyterian Church to members Lee Turner (left) and Knight Bowles.

Mike Cade Ashland Residency Administrator for VDOT—the state agency whose motto is Oops!—reported on maintenance completed and underway. Widening of I 64 from Short Pump to west of the Manakin-Rockville exit will begin soon.

Representatives from Dominion Virginia Power presented details of electric utility’s emergency preparedness and response strategy. This is available in Part A of the October 1 board packet, which can be found on the supervisors’ tab on the county website Even though it may seem like the power company is indifferent to power outages, it makes no money unless the wheels on your meter are spinning.

The board voted unanimously to opt out of the Virginia Retirement System disability plan in favor of seeking the same level of coverage for county employees at more competitive prices.

Dickson was given authorization to execute a memorandum of understanding among Goochland, Powhatan and the Virginia Department of Corrections for a water allocation sharing plan. This will provide Courthouse Village and Powhatan, as well as DOC facilities in both counties, with enough water to meet expected demand in the coming years.

People who live near the James River in western Goochland should take note of this development, as it replaces the dreadful concrete water intake bunker that Powhatan was planning to build that would have defaced the wild view shed of the James River. The late John Lewis, who worked hard to protect the James River and strenuously objected to the Powhatan plan, must be pleased with this outcome.

Thanks to regional cooperation, all parties involved will obtain water to encourage economic development while protecting a precious resource.

The board adopted it annual legislative agenda for transmittal to the county’s delegation in the Virginia General Assembly. The county is represented by Delegates Lee Ware, 65th District; Peter Farrell, 56th District and 22nd District State Senator Tom Garrett. (Details of the September meeting between Goochland officials and the delegation where these items were discussed are in an earlier GOMM post.)
Paul Springman was appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

A Rural Economic Development Committee was created to identify opportunities to facilitate and promote enterprises in rural enhancement areas that reflect the county’s overall business plan.
Like the group that investigated the broadband issue, this committee will be temporary in nature and is expected to disband around the middle of 2014 after making a report to the board. It is comprised of supervisors, county staff, and those currently engaged in facets of operating ventures that focus on the agrarian and recreational aspects of Goochland.

The last item on the afternoon agenda was a closed session for the purpose of discussing the performance and duties of the County Administrator and County Attorney. The proper motions were made and voted upon before entering closed session and at its end, which occurred just before the start of the evening session at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The first weekend in October

Fall is in full swing and the weather promises to be perfect. Take advantage of the nice days to participate in a few things close to home.
October is Fire Prevention Month. Firefighters believe that the best fire is one that never gets started. To that end, they work hard on prevention and education.
Auxiliaries, local folks who support fire-rescue volunteers, work hard to raise money. This Saturday, October 5, the Hadensville Company 6 ladies' auxiliary will hold a huge yard sale from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the station, on Rt. 250 in Hadensville. All proceeds will be used to furnish and equip the kitchen of its soon-to-be-built new station.
This Sunday, October 6, Manakin Volunteer Fire-Rescue Company 1 will hold a barbecue and fire safety exposition from 1 to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Benedictine College Preparatory school on River Road next to Rt. 288. In addition to tasty barbecue, there will be demonstrations, including a visit from a MedFlight helicopter and lots of fire-rescue apparatus for your inspection. For further information, visit for more information. Come visit the area’s newest neighbor.
Centerville Fire-Rescue Company 3 will also hold an open house at 52 Broad Street Road between 1 and 5 p.m.
Fife Company 4 will hold a field day event at its station on Hadensville-Fife Road from 1 to 5 p.m.
This is a great opportunity to meet the volunteers who work and train hard to save lives and protect property in Goochland County.
Grace Episcopal Church will have a blessing of the animals on Sunday at both the 9 and 11 a.m. services.
The County Health and Fitness Expo will take place on Saturday, October 5 from 10 to 2 at the Goochland Sports Complex (aka the old gym behind the admin building at 1800 Sandy Hook Road.)Contact county parks and rec at 556-5854 for additional information. Shuttle service from the Goochland YMCA will be available between 11 and 1.
Last, but not least, on Saturday, there will be an open house at the Goochland Animal Shelter from 10 to noon. Bring the kids, take a tour, register for prizes, and lots more! Dr. James Lavender and his Big Cats are special guests. The animal shelter is located at the entrance to Hidden Rock Park near the central convenience center just off of Fairground Road in Maidens.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Getting things done

On September 25, Goochland dedicated a new school bus maintenance facility. Located just north of Broad Street Road in Oilville, the building, which contains maintenance bays, storage, offices, a kitchen and conference room, has been servicing the county fleet since August.
After decades of fruitless searching for a replacement for the old facility on Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse, the new bus garage happened thanks to the wisdom of Maidens resident Lester "Buzz" Coe.
Noticing a for sale sign on  the site, Coe suggested that it would be an ideal, an immediate, solution to the bus garage problem to several supervisors before someone  realized that he was

 The county put an option to purchase on the property earlier this year while investigating its appropriateness for servicing county vehicles. After performing exhaustive due diligence, the site was declared a fit and was purchased.
Following some retrofitting and equipment installation, equipment and supplies were moved to the new site. Nice high ceilings mean that mechanics no longer need to let air out of bus tires to get them inside.  There is ample space for several buses and some smaller vehicles so no one needs to work outside in the elements any more!
Betty Thurston, head of transportation for the school division, said that the new facility was everyone's project. She thanked and praised those on county and schools staff for working hard to bring everything together.
Sonny Thompson, director of maintenance for schools oversaw the renovations and move of equipment and supplies into the new garage. He gave Buzz Coe a grand tour of the place.
Last weekend, two school board members painted over the logo of the previous owner and replaced it with a big red G.
This is what can happen when the supervisors and school board work together. Instead of saying " we can't" these boards operate on a "how do we make this happen?" vibe.

Cutting the ribbon: left to right: Susan Lascolette(District 1 supervisor), John Lumpkin District 3 School Board), Ken Peterson (District 5 supervisor and Board Chair), John Wright (District 5 school Board and chair), Mike Payne (District 1 school board), Manuel Alvarez(District 2 supervisor),  Bob Minnick (District 4 supervisor), Kevin Hazzard (District 2 school board), Beth Hardy(District 4 school board), and Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Schools.

                   Lots of room to work (photo taken after hours.)

                Notice the ample space and high ceilings that provide a safe and efficient workplace.

Carol and Buzz Coe in one of the new offices at the vehicle maintenance facility.