Friday, April 26, 2013

Once more into the fray

In Virginia, it’s always an election year of some sort. This year’s follies will pick the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the entire House of Delegates. (State senators run for election every four years, so they just get to kibbutz this time around.)

The top slot on the ticket is pretty much sewn up in both parties. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will lead the GOP and Terry McAuliff, fund raiser extraordinaire for Hilary Clinton, the Dems.

Seven Republicans and two Democrats are vying for the second chair slot. The Dems are: Aneesh Chopra, who served in the Obama cabinet and Ralph Northam, a state senator. The Republicans are: Jeannemarie Devolites Davis; E. W. Jackson; Scott Ligamfelter; Steve Martin; Pete Snyder; Corey Stewart and Susan Stimpson.

Unlike the governor, who can serve only one term, the lieutenant governor can seek reelection. This happened four years ago when incumbent Bill Bolling stayed put so Bob McDonnell could run for governor. It was assumed that Bolling would get his turn this year until Cuccinelli tossed his hat into the ring.

As the three top office holders in the Commonwealth are elected separately, they sometimes come from different parties, which can be its own soap opera.

The principal duties of the lieutenant governor are to take over in the event that the governor dies or is incapacitated and to preside over the Virginia Senate.

The second part is crucial to this year’s race, because the senate is evenly split with Democrats and Republicans. In the event of a tie, the lieutenant governor casts the deciding vote.

The Republicans are generally expected to retain a controlling margin in the House of Delegates, so the person who gets to sit in the big chair at the front of the Senate Chamber will be on the hot seat a lot during the next two years.

At a Thursday, April 25 meeting of the Goochland Tea Party, Republican Candidates for lieutenant governor made their case for support in the May 18 convention that will select the ticket. The Democrats will hold a primary in June for the same purpose.

Kudos to the GOP for choosing a convention rather than sticking local taxpayers with the bill for a party primary. These elections tend to have excruciatingly light turnout and waste electoral resources. Both parties need to pick candidates on their own dime. If they can spend boatloads of money on campaigns, they can pay for their own primary elections!

Due to a scheduling conflict, some candidates were unable to attend. If you are interested in seeing and hearing the entire  GOP herd, they will be at Benedictine High School on Shepherd Street in Richmond on Tuesday, April 30 beginning at 6 p.m. (See for details. offers an overview of the entire election with details on candidates of both parties.)
Rumor has it that Goochland Democrats were simultaneously hatching their own strategy at a local restaurant. Good for them. Uncontested elections are not healthy for our form of government.

The GOP candidates roughly fall into two categories, those who are in the General Assembly and those who are not.
Of the outsiders, Corey Stewart and Susan Stimpson,  chair the boards of supervisors in Prince William and Stafford Counties, respectively. They know firsthand about the havoc that the unintended consequences of legislation cooked up in Richmond wreaks on local government.

Bishop E. W. Jackson is a passionate and outspoken black conservative who fearlessly articulates and defends American ideals. Snyder is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

Stewart, whose county is one of the few in Virginia that does its own roads, contended it is easier and cheaper than dealing with VDOT, the state agency whose motto is “oops!” Stimpson was outraged at the massive tax increase that the current gang in Richmond passed to fund transportation.
Current state legislators probably lack the necessary  perspective to act in the best interest of the citizens.

While this year’s governor’s race will be the usual nasty food fight, keep an eye on the second spot, a race that often gets lost in the shadow of enormous egos on the top of the ticket.





Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hitting stride

Having spent their first year in office putting out fires,Goochland County’s supervisors have attained cruising speed.

At a Tuesday, April 16 evening meeting, the budget forfiscal year 2014, which begins July 1, was approved. Tax rates for calendar year 2013, which remain unchanged from last year, were also set. The sole change was reducing the base amount of usage for residential water and sewer public utility rates.

In response to a complaint about the manner in which the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District conducted its operations, the supervisors authorized County Administrator Rebecca Dickson to withhold payment of Goochland’s funding to the group until she is satisfied that they have mended their ways and put new best practices in place to prevent future discrimination against citizens. Susan Lascolette, District 1, wanted to ensure that tax dollars given to the MWSCD are used to assist Goochland farmers. A new memorandum of understanding between the county and MWSCD is expected to beexecuted in the next few months.

To no one’s surprise, a conditional use permit was granted to McDonald’s to operate a drive through window at a facility that will soon sprout in front of the Goodwill in Centerville. The CUP specified that McDonald’s may operate around the clock. A representative of the corporation,which will retain ownership of the land and building, explained that actual hours of operation will be customer driven.

The supervisors also disregarded the recommendation of the planning commission to require McDonald’s to contribute $10,000 toward the cost of a traffic signal at the intersection of St. Matthew’s Lane and Broad Street Road. Doug Elliott, a principal in the company that owns the Broadview Shopping Center, explained that the 2006 rezoning that created outparcels, required a $20,000 contribution toward signalization, which has been paid to the county. He contended, and the Board concurred, that asking for additional money from McDonald’s is “double dipping.”

Alternatives to that light were discussed, including a realignment of Ashland Road to connect with Hockett Road south of Broad and simply reducing the speed limit on Broad Street Road between Ashland and Manakin Roads to 35 miles per hour. (Currently, the speed limit is 45 miles per hour from the Henrico line to a mile or so west of Manakin Road.) Slowing traffic further would enhance the elusive village atmosphere lacking in Short Pump and, hopefully, be less cumbersome to accomplish than signalization. The speed limit along River Road West through Courthouse Village is 35 miles per hour.

Following rigorous objections to some area residents about the proposed design of the building, McDonald’s tweaked exterior features of the new store to include: windows with muntins on the drive through side that faces Broad Street Road, less aggressive awnings and a bit of decorative cornice to mitigate the flat roof. An elevation of the extensive landscaping plan is included in the board packet, on the county website

At least 50 jobs are expected to be generated by this project, as well as significant sales tax. Improvements to the site will increase its value and in turn generate additional real estate and TCSD ad valorem taxes. Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, explained that the CUP was granted without a sunset clause because Centerville is designated for commercial use and represents a considerable investment by McDonald’s.

Paul Costello, District 4, who led the charge that resulted in the changes to McDonalds’ and Stu Doetzer, District 2, were appointed to the Design Review Committee. These gentlemen will bring good insight to the process. The supervisors are trying to decide what to do with this appointed body, which must remain in place for the near term, so that projects in the pipeline, can comply with existing regulations. Janice Brooks,District 3, was reappointed to the DRC.

Rejoice District 4 voters! An ordinance amendment creating the new Shallow Well polling precinct at the Grace Chinese Baptist Chinese Church on Broad Street Road, just west of Three Chopt, was passed by the supervisors. The new precinct comprises about half of the District. Thanks to the hard work of the county’s electoral board: Herb Griffith, Bess Stewart, and Robin Lind, and our excellent Registrar, Frances C. Ragland, the precinct will be ready to serve voters for the November gubernatorial elections. Ragland will notify all affected voters of the change in their polling place well before Election Day.
County Attorney Norman Sales will submit a copy of the ordinance amendment to the United States Department of Justice for preclearance asrequired by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Thanks to the instigation of citizen Lester “Buzz” Coe of Maidens, the county will soon have a new bus maintenance facility, and save a few million dollars in the process.
Coe, familiar with the decades-long unsuccessful search for a replacement for the decrepit facility on Sandy Hook Road, suggested that the county consider buying an existing property in Oilville. It has a multi-bay maintenance area, offices and some parking. After a thorough evaluation of the property,the school board gave its blessing to the transaction. Dickson was given authority to complete the purchase. The school system expects that the new bus maintenance facility will be in use by the start of school in August.

The $1.19 million cost of the new facility, which includes demolition of the old structures, is far less than the $3 million estimates for a new garage. Mechanics will be soon able to work on buses out of the weather and they will no longer need to deflate tires to get the larger buses through the doors.

A 42.39 acre parcel of land in West Creek was rezoned from A-2 (agricultural limited) to B-1 (commercial general) to enhance sale and development potential. This land is roughly southwest of the project under development opposite Wawa. There are no specific plans for the site at present. Marshall Bowden, a principal of NDirt, LLC, owner of the property, explained that the rezoning will make the land more marketable and resolve one step in the development process. The supervisors concurred and unanimously approved the change.

With this year’s budget and some contentious land use matters behind them, the supervisors seem poised to turn their attention elsewhere. Stay tuned.

The new bus garage is below. Notice the nice high bay doors!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Some women knit in their spare time. Goochland native Robin Hillman thinks about disaster. No, she's not a Doomsday Prepper, but rather one of the county's unsung treasures.

Hillman, who has been a Goochland FIre-Rescue volunteer since she was a teenager, has a very unsual set of skills and interests. She excels at visualizing the impact of different kinds of disasters on the county, and how to best mitigate whatever happens, which now includes earthquakes.

She received an honorable mention as a 2012 Citizen Corps Superstar from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Dominion Virginia Power. At their April 8 meeting, Goochland's supervisors recognized Hillman for her contributions to the county.

Hillman was instrumental in creation of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), which works with county businesses to identify hazardous materials and create a database to help first responders avoid dangerous situations. The LEPC also encourages safe hazardous materials practices and helps county companies craft strategies to mitigate the impact of disasters on their operations. This could be something as simple as establishing an alternate location to ensure continuation of operations during a prolonged power failure.

Hillman was also the moving force behind the creation of the county's Citizen Corps about a decade ago. In addition to offering annual Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes, the Citizen Corps has trained county volunteers in shelter operations. These folks work with Social Services to staff the emergency shelter at the high school. This provides refuge for people who cannot stay in their homes for reasons like power failures and flooding. She also worked to create a shelter where evacuees can bring their pets.

Last year, Hillman helped organize and host s Survivor Day to provide disaster preparedness information to citizens. A similar event will be held later this year.

As Deputy Director for Emergency Operations, Hillman is an integral part of the county's Emergency Operations Center, which is activated during times of emergency to coordinate all of the county's resources for maximum effectiveness.

She regularly designs and coordinates disaster drills to help agencies and responders get a feel for the kind of situations they may encounter following a disaster and learn to collaborate dealing with the aftermath.

Hillman, who is a high level executive with a Richmond based business, literally took her avocation to work and has helped make her company as disaster resistant as possible.

She graciously thanked the supervisors for the opportunity to use her interests to serve the community. We thank her.

Board of Supervisor's Chairman, Kendall Peterson, District 5, and Robin Hillman.

Monday, April 8, 2013

No news IS good news

Public hearings for the proposed Goochland County budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins on July 1, drew remarks from only one person, an outside agency director thankning the supervisors for their financial support. The manufactured drama of school children begging for reinstatement of programs eliminated due to revenue shortfalls and outraged citizens demanding that their taxes be raised for school funding was absent.
The April 8 hearing is the first time in recent memory that not a single member of the school board or administration even attended the budget hearings.
Following months of workshops, town hall meetings and citizen feedback, the proposed budget, which will be funded by keeping the real estate tax at 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, provides an acceptable level of funding for schools, law enforcement, and other governmental services. The EMS cost recovery program implemented at the start of the year, which charges for ambulance transport, is expected to generate enough money to cover a significant portion of the cost of hiring fire-rescue providers to handle rising call volume.

The access to budget information from the county, and especially the school system, was unprecedented. The proposed budget is available on the county website for all to peruse.

The reworking of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt, which resulted in stability for the ad valorem tax levied on property there, resulted in a smaller draw on the county's general fund than in previous years.

At the start of the evening portion of the meeting, Peter Farrell, who represents the eastern portion of the county in the General Assembly, presented Goochland voters with a commendation for having the hight voting percentage in the Commonwealth for two consecutive presidential elections. Farrell said that our Electoral Board comprised of Chairman Herb Griffith, Bess Stewart and Robin Lind, working closely with Frances Ragland, the best registrar in Virginia, contributed to this achievement. The most important achievement of Goochland voters, however, may have been replacement of most of the Board of Supervisors and entire school board in the 2011 election.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson commended county staff and all department directors, who attended the hearings, for their hard work and willingness to pitch in and craft the budget.
Board chair Kendall Peterson, District 5, observed that the proposed budget increased funding for the core services of education, law enforcement and fire-rescue without increasing the tax rate in "yet another year of declining real estate tax revenues."

Ned Creasey, District 3, said that this year's budget process provides yet another yardstick that other counties can use to measure how things should be done.

District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick, a relative newcomer to Goochland, couldn't see what the fuss was all about. "This is how is should be. We did our job and worked hard to explain what was going on to the citizens."

The supervisors will vote on the proposed budget and set the tax rates for 2013 on April 16 at 7p.m.

One size does not fit all

Goochland Countys newly streamlined Planning Commission conducted its first meeting on Thursday, April 4. Tom Rockecharlie, who now represents District 5, and Joe Andrews, District 4, were unanimously elected and chair and vice chair respectively. Other members are: Matt Brewer, District 2, Derek Murray District, 3 and John Meyers, recently appointed to the District 1 seat.

A moment of silence followed in remembrance of architect John Lewis who represented District 5 on the Design Review Committee. He gave countless hours of his time and skills to advocating for controlled growth in the county. Lewis was also passionate about preservation of Goochlands James River view shed, which he believed to be the sole surviving stretch of the waterway that remains relatively untouched by civilization.

The Commission then turned its attention to a zoning ordinance revision to implement rigorous design standards for the Centerville Village overlay district. This area runs along Broad Street Road from the Henrico County line to just west of Satterwhite's Restaurant. It extends up Ashland Road to Interstate 64 and dribbles south of Hockett and Manakin Roads. Most of the parcels along Plaza Drive are also included.

Ideally, these standards will ensure high quality development in one of the main entrance corridors for Goochland. The new standards seek to increase property values; encourage high quality development; and protect current land owners from the adverse impact of development on adjoining parcels.

One aspect of development that is not, and cannot, be addressed by any design standards is the issue of ugly. Codified standards are objective. While size, materials, setback, colors and so forth can be listed as acceptable or prohibited, how those elements are combined cannot.

The McDonald's soon to be built in front of the Goodwill is an example. It will be built of accepted materials, meet all setback, height, lighting and storm water management requirements. But, some people consider its appearance blight on the rural character of Centerville. Many others don't really seem to care and welcome the tax dollars it will bring to Goochland. Two years from now, most will not even notice that it is there.

Environmental Planner Leigh Dunn explained that the proposed standards are intentionally nonspecific to permit maximum flexibility. For instance, a large façade must be broken up by differing design elements to lessen its massiveness.

A good example of this is the John Rolfe Commons in Henrico. The main structure in this huge strip mall is curved and broken into smaller sections visually by changes in façade, materials, and design. There are more rows of parking in front of the Martins and fewer near smaller storefronts.

As usual, the devil is in the details. To their credit, the Commissioners conducted a thoughtful conversation about the matter rather than rejecting it out of hand or passing it by rote. They discussed the effect that application of the proposed standards, which included approved materials, setbacks, landscaping, and lighting would have in different scenarios.

The amount of parking to be allowed in front of a building generated many comments. While permitting no more than two rows of parking in front of a building seems reasonable for a small store like McDonalds, it would not make sense for a larger concern. Possibilities mentioned here included Lowes, Target and other dreaded big box entities, something previous commissions regarded as unacceptable.

Rockecharlie wanted to know how the proposed standards would apply to an auto dealership. Myers questioned the exclusion of stucco as an approved siding material and terra cotta tile for roofing. Dunn explained that those materials are not traditionally used in the area.

Businesses wax and wane. Requiring relatively generic structures will help to prevent abandoned eyesores should a specific entity fail.

Because the Centerville Village is so large and comprised of many undeveloped parcels with a wide range of characteristics, creating uniform design standards will be tricky.

In the village core, roughly the area between Ashland and Manakin Roads and along Plaza Drive, new development will occur on relatively small infill parcels between and among existing buildings. A good portion of the land along Ashland Road and on the north side of Broad Street east of Ashland Road consists of large parcels of raw land facing fewer constraints.

Using a threshold based on parcel size to deal with issues like parking and storm water management could simplify things. The Commission favored encouraging contiguous small parcels to use mutual BMPs--the landscaped depressions that capture storm water and allow it to seep back into the ground instead of gushing into streamsinstead of digging one on every lot. That may work well in theory, but if each parcel needs a BMP in place to obtain a certificate of occupancy, they cannot wait for development on the lot next door.

Murray commented that he would not permit his young children to walk on the new sidewalk recently built at the edge of Broad Street Road because it is too close to traffic. The real question about walkability is just how many people will park once and hoof it to several different destinations. It seems quite unlikely that many people will choose to walk across Broad Street Road.

During the public hearing on the ordinance change, owners of property in the overlay district raised concerns that the standards would place an economic burden on existing businesses and act as a deterrent rather than incentive to new economic development.

Tom Kinter, who hopes to build a self-storage facility on Three Chopt Road against Rt. 288 pointed out that the requirement to screen all rooftop mechanical devices from view would require him to screen a roof visible only to traffic zipping by on 288. In that case, a single row of bullet-proof low maintenance shrubs, like the ones already growing there, would provide ample screening for anything on a rooftop below.

Existing buildings would not be affected by the new standards, but they would apply to renovations.

Instead of ignoring comments by property owners, the Commissioners took their concerns to heart and tried to look at the issue from a business, rather than government authority, point of view.

Following a good bit of discussion, the matter was turned back to staff to tweak the proposal to incorporate suggestions made during the discussion.

The Commission is expected to take up the next set of revisions at its May meeting for a possible vote on a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.






Monday, April 1, 2013

In the loop

If the Goochland District 4 Town Hall meeting held on Monday, March 25 is any indication, folks in the county want to know what’s going on in local government.

Bob Minnick, District 4 supervisor and Beth Hardy, School Board Member for District 4 were ready, willing and eager to interact with their constituents, the presentations were made mostly by staff.

The Company 3 Fire-Rescue Station’s meeting room was filled with citizens who came to hear and update from county officials. Unlike last year, when folks in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District complained at length about proposed hikes in utility and ad valorem tax rates, they listened. Comments were generally supportive.

Attendees seemed to be mostly from the Parke at Centerville and Kinloch communities. These are the folks that worked very hard to elect Minnick and Ken Peterson in District 5 in 2011. Engagement of these new residents in county government is perhaps the clearest example of the unintended consequences of all that residential rezoning that went on about a decade ago.

County Treasurer Pam Johnson made a brief appearance to remind folks that this year personal property tax will be collected twice per year, beginning with the June 5 payment. That means half of the tax is due in June, the remainder in December. So, if you’re wondering where your personal property tax bill is, do not worry, it will be along in a month or so.

Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Schools—he’s been here long enough to drop the ”new”—explained what is going on in our schools. Lane’s boundless enthusiasm for Goochland School is contagious.

Attendees told Lane that they are eager to support local education. Lane promised to send purveyors of band fruit and other fund raising items to their doors. (For those eager to lend financial support to our schools, contributions may be made to the Goochland Education Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization, today.  Mail your checks payable to the Goochland Education Foundation to: Tom Deweerd, Registered Agent, Goochland Education Foundation, 2938-I River Road West, Goochland, Virginia 23036.)

Lane gave a thumbnail sketch of what’s going on in our schools from the achievement of our sports and academic teams to new curriculum additions designed to provide marketable skills to students who are not college bound. He also said that the school system welcomes citizen volunteers. Please visit the excellent school website at for more information and take a look at the “How to invest in our schools section.”

Lane also gave an overview of the proposed school budget. Details are on the school website and Lane and any or all school board members will be happy to respond to questions about it. The budget is online, in its entirety, another first in transparency for our schools.

One of the biggest challenges that Goochland schools need to overcome, said Lane, is the false perception that they are not excellent. In the next few months, the county and school system will launch a public relations campaign to raise awareness of just how good our schools are. This is intended to enhance economic development initiatives using a theme of “Goochland First.”

School Board Chair John Wright, District 5, explained that among metrics used throughout Virginia to evaluate and rank schools systems, Goochland schools consistently finish in the top tier. “What we are able to do with what we have is quite phenomenal,” said Wright.

County administrator Rebecca Dickson explained that, unlike its neighbors, Goochland faced the economic realities of the “great recession” a few years back by reducing the county workforce by about ten percent, combining some functions and being very careful with money. The supervisors have also approved new revenue streams, especially the EMS cost recovery program that went into effect on January 1. This applies funds collected from billing for hospital transport services to offset fire-rescue expenses including paid EMS crews.

Leadership attitudes also play a key part in the county’s lack of fiscal drama. “You can get a lot of things done with two boards that work well together and a cooperative school superintendent,” she observed.

Dickson reported that bills passed during this year’s General Assembly session will simplify some issues facing the county. Perhaps the most significant of these will now permit the county to add parcels to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District in a far less cumbersome manner that was previous possible.

The proposed county budget is also available in all its glory at The budget public hearing will be held on Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. A vote on the 2013 tax and utility rates will take place on April 16.

Questions about development in Centerville were raised. One citizen objected to the hodgepodge of existing architectural styles including the “Russian nesting doll” house that grew to include an indoor tennis court. He suggested that the supervisors defer addressing the CUP for McDonalds until the new overlay standards are in place.

Dickson said that the county is getting a lot of calls about development in Centerville. She explained that the new, improved design standards will ensure quality construction while providing enough flexibility to attract new business.

Minnick made it pretty clear that the McDonalds’ will be approved.

New, improved design guidelines for the expanded Centerville Village overlay will be addressed, and probably voted on, at this Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting. (Note: this is a change. Going forward, the Goochland Planning Commission will meet on the first Thursday of the month.)These standards will be similar to those that apply to the Oilville Village. Although created to encourage a walkable community, new construction there, though of high quality, produced a cookie cutter subdivision and strip shopping center, with no walkable articulation between the two.

The supervisors are expected to vote on these standards before approving the conditional use permit for McDonalds. GOMM predicts all will be unanimously approved with little discussion among the supervisors.