As Detroit finally sinks into bankruptcy we shake our heads and wonder if it could happen here. While Goochland County is a far cry from the once proud Motor City, we have our own burdens.
Upon taking office in 2012, the Board of Supervisors wisely turned its attention to getting control of the massive Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt. In addition to restructuring a portion of the financial obligation, the supervisors aggressively pursued economic development in the TCSD to ensure that the county is able to meet all of its financial obligations while keeping real estate and ad valorem taxes steady.
Indeed, as the fragile national economy sputters toward some kind of recovery, Goochland has started to see activity, especially in the eastern end.
While the Goodwill, Acme Stove and McDonald’s additions to Centerville are most visible, other concerns are moving to the county. Among them, an industrial fabricator and auto repair shop in Oilville and an asphalt plant on Ashland Road. While relatively modest, they bring jobs and tax revenue to the county.
Another indicator of a growth spurt is an increase in residential rezoning applications filtering through the system. Currently, two proposals for new communities are awaiting approval by the supervisors.
Both of these are located in the TCSD. One is in the northeastern corner of the county, the other in the Hockett Road corridor. At build out, together these will add a couple of hundred new homes to Goochland.
Located in areas served by water and sewer, these subdivisions will increase property values in the TCSD not to mention drastically enlarge the county utility customer base. More users means more folks to share the cost burden for running and maintaining public water and sewer systems. That alone is welcome news for the relative handful of people who are profoundly weary of escalating rates and fees.
On the other hand, the supervisors need to ensure that approval of these new homes will not obligate the county to provide additional services whose costs are not borne by new residents.
A rezoning application for 124 homes near the corner of Ashland and Pouncey Tract Roads, roughly behind the Aw-shucks complex, includes partial cash proffers. Scott Gaeser, the developer for that project, contends that onsite road improvements that have been and will be made have more immediate value to the county than cash to be used for transportation projects to be named later. Gaeser also contends that these homes will add few, if any, students to county schools and omitted both the education and road portions of the amount proffered per home.
(Note: the maximum amount of cash proffer is periodically set by the supervisors and includes a mechanism to reflect changes in property values. The cash proffer amount applies to residential rezoning of land anywhere in the county.)
The rezoning application for land on the east side of Hockett Road just south of the Parke at Centerville includes full cash proffers. However, it sidesteps installation of left and right turn lanes at the entrance to the property. Subdivisions with more than 49 homes are required to have at least two access points.
During the hearing at the July 11 planning commission meeting, counsel for the Hockett Road rezoning applicant explained that his client was negotiating to build a second entrance through the parcel to the north after the first 49 homes were done to complete the subdivision. The homes are expected to be priced in the $375-$500,000 range. High quality materials will be used in construction of the homes and vinyl siding will be prohibited.
To their credit, the planning commissioners seem to believe that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush and contended that turn lanes should be part of the first entrance and be built at the outset.
Hockett Road is a logical place for residential development to occur. As it is already a heavily traveled road, requiring that left and right turn lanes be built at the outset is a no brainer Any kind of road improvements in this area will create some disruption of normal traffic flow. The people who travel Hocektt Road regularly should be subject to this annoyance only once.
There is ample precedent for requiring that left and right turn lanes be constructed at the beginning of a project. Perhaps installation of turn lanes should be required for all residential rezoning applications.
Citizens in the Hockett Road corridor made the troubling observation that a sign announcing the rezoning appeared only a few days before the hearing. The Department of Community Development needs to do a better job of letting people know about pending changes in land use.
The applicant requested deferral of a vote until the next planning commission meeting on August 1 to reconsider turn lanes.
As no discussion of adding more traffic to Hockett Road is complete without throwing the Broad Street Road intersection into the mix, Principal Planner Tom Coleman explained that the supervisors are looking at the issue.
When the Goochland secondary six year road program was approved earlier this year, it included an engineering study to examine the impact of rerouting Hockett Road through the parcel of land at the south side of the Ashland/Broad Street Road intersection. That would funnel through traffic to an already signalized intersection.
In addition to easing the current bottleneck, this approach provides road frontage for vacant land that is currently being used to grow corn. Allegedly, the owner of that property has expressed willingness to donate any rights-of-way needed to build the road.
Exactly when this would happen is lost in the mists of the cumbersome VDOT funding mechanism. The quick fix of installing a traffic signal at Hockett and Broad is also mired in the quicksand of VDOT policy. Until the stars align and the traffic count charts and graphs needed to reach the VDOT threshold for signalization are met, there will be no stoplight to ease the daily game of “chicken” that motorists play there every day.
The supervisors are understandably reluctant to impede any development in the TCSD. However, they need to take a deep breath and consider long term consequences of their actions.
Today it seems unlikely that people purchasing homes in northwestern Goochland would enroll children in county schools. However, should an elementary school be built on county owned land on Hockett Road that could change. Today’s empty nest could well be tomorrow’s starter house replete with school children. Things change.
It is prudent for the supervisors to insist that developers mitigate the impact of their projects on county infrastructure and should encourage exploration of a myriad of avenues to that end.