Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BZA rules on Benedictine appeal

White smoke did not emanate from the board meeting room on August 26, but the Goochland Board of Zoning Appeals finally ruled on an appeal to the Benedictine College Preparatory (BCP) School’s plan of development for its property on River Road.

Surgically “splitting the baby,” the BZA voted unanimously to overturn only the portion of the POD dealing with storm water runoff, everything else stands. The decision has no impact on the start of classes on September 3.

The four member BZA—an appointment to fill a District 5 vacancy and designate alternates are expected soon—has been grappling with this appeal since spring. Efforts to streamline the process only dragged things out.

Following the vote, BZA counsel Maynard Sipe explained that only the drainage issue portion of the POD appeal was overturned. The ruling carries a general expectation that county staff will work with BCP to adequately address the storm water management issue.

(Space was reserved on the Goochland Circuit Court docket earlier this month for November 5 to address the issue of BZA jurisdiction and expected appeals to the August 26 decision.)

Appellant Andrew Thexton, who lives about 300 yards east of the BCP property on the north side of River Road, testified under oath that, since road improvements, which include a new entrance and turn lanes, were completed, significant amounts of storm water runoff has been channeled onto his property. During storms, Thexton said, water flows across the pavement with sufficient velocity to force gravel onto River Road.

He contended that the storm runoff, shown in a video as a torrent at the eastern edge of his property, backs up his home’s foundation drains resulting in significant amounts of water in his crawl space. A photo of a ruler under Thexton’s house seems to indicate that there had been between five and nine inches of water there this summer.

Thexton said that while he has not yet seen indications of mold in his crawlspace, he is concerned about possible health issues that could arise from the moisture. Thexton said that he regularly inspects his HVAC and other equipment located under the house and had never noticed moisture on the vapor barrier before the BCP road improvements.

Thexton explained that water flowing on the south side of River Road is forced to the north side by an “earthen dam” in the ditch just west of the entrance to the Pembroke Farms subdivision, roughly opposite his home.

When he learned of the plans to widen River Road, Thexton said that he raised concerns with the county and VDOT about excess runoff winding up on his property with little result. He contended that he never received any response to enquiries made about the matter.

In response to a question from Yasmine Hamad, District 4, about remedying the situation, Thexton opined that BCP could build a retention basin to collect the runoff.

At that point, an attorney for Goochland observed that Thexton has not established any bona fides in civil engineering and was not qualified to speak on mitigation.

Then the county and BCP shared an hour for their side of the story.

Goochland Plan of Development Administrator Debbie Byrd, a professional engineer with more than 30 years of experience in erosion and sediment control, explained that her job is to ensure that state and county laws and regulations are followed. She also explained that VDOT is responsible for all roads in the county, including approval of the road component, which includes drainage, of a POD. She said that she approved the POD for BCP on January 29, 2013 after all of the parts were properly addressed, including storm water runoff management along River Road as approved by VDOT.

Byrd then explained that VDOT uses formulas to determine adequacy of outfalls that handle storm water based on specific criteria using historical rainfall data. These formulas are designed to indicate if culverts and channels that handle drainage in a particular area are either adequate or need improvement.

She said that data “plugged into” this formula must be submitted to VDOT by a licensed engineer. This seems to have been submitted by an engineer retained by BCP.

In response to a question from Hamad, Byrd confirmed that public hearings on the BCP relocation were held by the planning commission and board of supervisors resulting in approval of a conditional use permit by special exception in December of 2011.

Byrd visited the site on June 19, 2013, the day after five and one half inches of rain fell in about twelve hours, and took photos of the ditch on the south side of the road. On that day, she said, it was in good condition with no erosion or sediment in the road and no sign of flooding in the ditch in front of the Thexton property.

Dr. Richard Carchman District 1 explained the reasoning of the BZA decision saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Compelling images of torrents of rainwater coursing through the Thexton property during a recent storm overrode lengthy technical arguments contained in briefs undoubtedly more than a thousand words long. Also, a video of a school bus easily and safely negotiating the new entrance from the BCP property onto River Road refuted claims it could not handle vehicles expected to access the property on a regular basis.

Before the final vote was taken, Hamad said that as a Goochlander, she is proud that BCP chose to locate in the county, glad the school is here, and hopes that all parties can come to a decision to address the storm water situation.

A truncated appearance by BCP witness civil engineer Todd Borden highlighted a paucity of data submitted to VDOT for use in the outfall channel adequacy calculations. He contended that the VDOT application lacked an analysis of existing drainage, so it would not be possible to calculate change caused by road improvements.

Dr. Harriet “Dee” Phillips, District 3, supported this contention saying that, in all the evidence presented, she failed to find adequate documentation to support the VDOT decision on the water issue. She contended that even minimal increases in storm water runoff from road improvements should trigger mitigation efforts.

The narrow ruling by the BZA upheld most of the POD, which the appellants argued had been improperly approved.

If this appeal was really about storm water runoff issues, it seems to have been justified. All property owners must be protected from adverse effects of storm water runoff caused by upstream development. If it was designed to make BCP go away, it failed.

Members of the BZA are to be commended for approaching the matter in a thorough and objective manner. They spent countless hours listening to arguments, conferring with counsel, visiting the site, reading briefs, researching state and local laws, and using their intellectual skills to arrive at an impartial ruling.

Goochland is blessed to have such citizens willing and able to contribute their time and talents to the well-being of the community.









Thursday, August 15, 2013

Benedictine update

No, it's not over.
Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner, after dismissing a request to impose a injunction against VDOT for approving  essentially completed River Road alterations on August 6, set a hearing date of November 5 to address an appeal  filed by Benedictine and the county on August 14. 

On Monday, August 13, the Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to decline a request by the county and Benedictine to stay further proceedings until the Circuit Court rules on the jurisdiction matter.
Sanner said "good" when informed of the BZA August 13 vote. He explained that there is no way that he could rule on jurisdiction before the August 26 hearing on the merits of the appeal to the Plan of Development that has been on the BZA's plate since at least April. He also predicted that the losing party in the BZA deliberations will file an appeal and hoped for consolidation of all issues in November.

At the August 13 BZA session, Dr. Harriet "Dee" Phillips District 3 astutely observed that if the BZA had not acceded to various requests to allegedly streamline the proceedings, the BZA would have already ruled on the appeal. The  composition of the BZA is expected to change in the next few months with the addition of new members and departures of current appointees. Ruling on the matter, sooner rather than later, by. BZA familiar with the situation, is more than reasonable.

On August 26 beginning at 10 a.m., both sides will put on their full arguments. Each side will have an hour for oral presentation and witness testimony followed by questions, a linch break an deliberations. This will take place in the board meeting room of the county administration building at 1800 Sandy Hook Road on Courthouse Village. It will be a full that, hopefully, ends with a decision.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Know your county

It’s that time again. Goochland Leadership Enterprise (GLE) is accepting applicants for its fall class. Since created in the fall of 1996, GLE had informed and engaged several hundred people. Graduates participate in every facet of county life from Christmas Mother to the Board of Supervisors. They enhance the quality of life in Goochland.

In addition to exploring topics that range from Goochland history to the budget process of local government, GLE participants get to know a wide range of people from the entire county. This provides insight about the challenges and opportunities facing the county as a whole.

The GLE program consists of a series of 15 classes held approximately every other Thursday at 7 p.m. from September through March. Sessions, which are held at different locations around the county, include a dinner with the Board of Supervisors, and a visit to the Virginia General Assembly to meet with our representatives to state government.

The first class is scheduled for September 19. Registration will remain open until capacity is reached. To sign up or obtain further information, contact the Goochland Extension office at 556-5841 or visit http://offices.ext.vt.edu/goochland/Gooch_Leadership_Class.html.

The final class is devoted to the exploration of ways to get involved. Citizen engagement is vital for our form of government to flourish. GLE provides an interesting and rewarding path to community involvement.



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Theory versus reality

Goochland’s supervisors began their August 6 monthly meeting with a morning workshop on zoning law revisions and economic development. They ended the day, more than twelve hours later, grappling with a plan of development waiver request that illustrated the real world wrinkles of placing a business in a rural area.

In the morning Economic Development Director Matt Ryan discussed agribusiness. If Goochland is truly committed to preserving rural character--whatever that is--folks must be able to generate income from their land lest it be planted in houses.

Agribusiness is a broad term that includes farm markets, wineries, microbreweries, and so forth. Goochland already has a few things that fall into that category and Ryan contended that the county should create some sort of rural economic development committee to expand and encourage those opportunities.

The tale of Lisa and Sean Pumphrey’s Licking Hole Creek Craft Brewery, located at the end of Knolls Point Drive, a private thoroughfare off of Chapel Hill Road, is a case in point. This enterprise, which blends the virtues of agriculture with the ancient craft of brewing beer, is precisely the sort of business to preserve and enhance undeveloped areas.

In late 2011 the Pumphreys initiated a county zoning ordinance amendment to allow microbreweries, defined as producing up to 15,000 barrels of beer per year, as a by right use on 50 or more acres of land. Past and present boards embraced their suggestion and county law was changed in early 2012.

Planning to grow hops, barley, and other beer ingredients on their 221 acres, they expected a few visitors to tour their operation and taste their product, which would be trucked offsite to market.

Initially, the neighbors along Knolls Point Drive seemed to embrace the notion of a brewery in their midst. The shared gravel road, Knolls Point Drive that provides the only access to the Pumphrey property was never mentioned.

In July 2012 the state expanded privileges granted to microbreweries allowing consumption and sale of beer on site. According to Goochland County Administrator Rebecca Dickson, this use was never contemplated when the county zoning ordinance was changed or the Pumphreys created their brewery.

The Pumphreys, decided to take advantage of the new rules and use Licking Hole Craft Brewery to sell beer, give tours, and host events that could accommodate up to 249 people. To that end, they filed a plan of development with the county. When the county required that they pave about three quarters of a mile of road and their parking lot, they requested a waiver contending that a gravel road is more appropriate for a rural area than paving, which is an expensive proposition.

The neighbors who use Knolls Point Drive to access their homes objected to the waiver. Indeed, some of them spoke during the supervisors’ citizen comment period a few months ago to complain about the increased intensity of use of the property. On August 6, their representative told the supervisors that the neighbors’ main concern is the noise and dust generated by heavy use of the road. Paving would mitigate those problems.

Clearly uncomfortable in the role of referee, the Board sought middle ground on the matter and a way to let the Pumphreys hold a grand opening at the end of August. After almost three hours of consensus building, the Supervisors voted 4-1, with Susan Lascolette District 1 in dissent, to grant an 18 month waiver on the paving requirement. If the road has not been paved at that time, the mater will be reopened.

In return for the waiver, the Pumphreys accepted conditions that limit hours of operation for public visitation; large crowd event permits to three for the remainder of 2013 and only five annually thereafter. They must also and keeping the road wet to contain dust in dry weather and install signage to direct brewery traffic away from existing homes.

The Pumphreys asked for at least 40 public hours per week to qualify for VDOT signage on Interstate 64. The supervisors’ conditions require that no public hours be held on Sunday and Monday but they are extended to nine p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sean Pumphrey explained that staying open later in the evening accommodates after work visits.

Board Chair Ken Peterson District 5 observed that the 18 month waiver gives the Pumphreys a chance to get the business off the ground and generate revenue to fund paving. Hope that the Pumphreys and the neighbors can reconcile their differences was also expressed.

If the Pumphreys decided to pave the road in the meantime, the conditions no longer apply.

The Pumphreys have made a considerable investment in the Licking Hole Creek Craft Brewery. Information in the July 13, 2013 waiver application (included in the August 6 board packet available on the county website at www.co.goochland.va.us) indicates that the enterprise is the result of a carefully conceived and executed business plan. Comments made during the waiver consideration, seemed to suggest that the cost of paving the road was not included in the calculations.

Did the county wait until the last minute to spring the paving requirement on the Pumphreys? If so, the policy needs to be changed so that business owners know up front what will be required of them so they can plan accordingly.

If the Pumphreys assumed that they could ignore the paving requirement because they’d made a significant investment in the county the supervisors were very generous in granting the waiver.

Paving requirements have vexed many operations and sometimes seem to lack consistency in their application. This needs to stop.

Perhaps zoning ordinances in rural areas should require businesses to have direct, exclusive access to a state maintained road regardless of paving requirements to protect neighbors from unintended consequences of success. Clear rules simplify things for all concerned.

Goochland is blessed by people who come here to follow their dreams and invest their money. God willing more enterprises that extol the virtues of rural life yet sit gently on the land will bloom from our red clay.

In the meantime, the supervisors must ensure balance between newcomers eager to invest and change the landscape and those already here. All must receive fair governance.









Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The shape of things to come

Items on the August 1 agenda of the Goochland Planning Commission hinted at the spectrum of economic development options in the county.

On the one hand the Commission recommended approval of a conditional use permit for a modest auto repair business on Davis Mill Road in the upper end of the county. On the other hand a conceptual master plan for three 60,000 square foot medical office buildings in West Creek with was blessed. Both will bring jobs and revenue to the county. Each is located in an appropriate setting.

Due to the absence of Commissioners John Myers, District 1 and Derek Murray, District 3, any votes taken had to be unanimous. The three members present, Chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, Joe Andrews, District 4, and Matt Brewer, District 2 constituted a quorum.

A rezoning application deferred after discussion at the July 11 meeting for 59 acres located on the east side of Hockett Road from A-1 (agricultural limited) to RPUD (residential planned unit development) presented restated conditions that included construction of left and right turn lanes. Following the July public hearing, the Commission expressed concern that the initial application lacked a provision for these turn lanes.

The proposed subdivision, expected to be named Swanson Ridge, will have 100 homes at build out. As the county requires two access points for communities with more than 50 homes, a second entrance must be established after the 49th home is completed. The applicant, Atack Properties ME Tech Park Partners, LLC, explained during the July hearings that it is negotiating with the owners of the parcel to the north to create a road and second entrance that is roughly opposite the Parke at Centerville. In July, representatives of the applicant contended that this access point, whose existence was somewhat speculative at that point, would handle most of the Swanson Ridge traffic. To their credit the Commissioners prefer a bird in the hand.

In addition to building the turn lanes at the start of construction on the subdivision, the applicant pledged to prepay $22,000 of cash proffers to help fund signalization of the Hockett/Broad Street Road intersection. Monies to fund this needed--but in the eyes of VDOT speculative--traffic light have also been contributed by Broadview Shopping Center and other landowners.

Citizens rose to commend the Commissioners for ensuring the safety of those who live in the Hockett Road corridor by standing fast on the turn lane issue and the developers for acceding to the wishes of area residents. Several observed that the Hockett Road corridor is the logical place for residential growth in the Goochland, but the county must insist that appropriate infrastructure improvements be part of future rezonings. Establishing high development standards will result in attractive communities, increased land values and profitable ventures for developers.

An application for a CUP to build a cell tower on a 25 acre parcel of land on Sheppard Town Road was deferred to September following opposition by neighbors of the property in question.

The need for the tower, interference with electronics in the homes of nearby residents; negative effects on property values; questions about the ownership of the road leading to the tower; and traffic were concerns mentioned by those who opposed the tower. Commissioners also had questions about vegetative buffers that shield the mechanics of the tower from view.

Rockecharlie observed that cell towers have tended to be located in areas somewhat separated from homes. The proposed tower site is near several homes. He also had concerns about the access road and said that he would like to see the matter deferred to the September meeting so that all Planning Commissioners could consider the application.

Brewer asked for clarification about ownership of land surrounding the tower parcel and potential for timbering that could remove the trees concealing the tower’s mechanical equipment from view.

Andrews moved to recommend approval of the CUP. His motion died for lack of a second. A motion for deferral made by Brewer was unanimously accepted.

This Planning Commission comes to meetings prepared to deal with the issues before it. While the Commission works efficiently it does not overlook its charge of ensuring good land use practices while safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens. Comments made by the Commissioners are on point and not tangential blathering.

There are thorny land use issues ahead, but approaching them head on with a view toward a fair resolution bodes well for the future.







Thursday, August 1, 2013

Celebrate@ your library

Celebrate@your library

Some Goochlanders stood in the snow on January 18,2003 to pass books hand to hand from the old library to the new. 

The Goochland Branch Library, located at 3075 River Road West in Courthouse Village is celebrating its 10th Anniversary on Friday, August 2 from noon to 6 p.m. Sponsored by the Friends of the Goochland Library (FOGL), the event will feature live local music and artist displays; Parrots of Paradise; fun activities; door prizes; and, of course, birthday cake.

Many thought it would be a cold day in hell before Goochland County got a new library to replace the 2,800 square foot former bank building it had called home since 1974. The old building was so cramped that books were shelved on window sills and was barely handicapped accessible.

Although the county’s first capital improvement plan—in 1989 essentially an unfunded wish list—included an expanded central library and smaller branch, entreaties to build it fell on deaf ears for many years.

FOGL president Pat Atherholt of Manakin, who took up the drumbeat for an expanded library from the late Erma Britt, refused to give up. She worked with Democrat Earl Dickinson of Louisa, who represented Goochland in the General Assembly, to secure three $100,000 state appropriations for the project. The Friends and the county joined forces and funds that resulted conceptual plans to enlarge the old building to 6,000 square feet that gathered dust for a few years.

In 2000, the county purchased the site of the “new” library and finally appropriated additional funds for its construction.

On January 18, 2003, a frigid, snowy Saturday, the impossible came to pass when 259 volunteers moved 37,000 books from the old building to the new library, 368 days after breaking ground.

A cross section of the community—including offenders from the Virginia Correctional Center for Women and a myriad of local civic organizations and just plain folks—pitched in.

Initially the move was to be completed using a human chain stretching from the old building, opposite the Courthouse, to the new. Given the glacial weather, the move was streamlined to keep most of the movers indoors and pickup trucks ferried the tomes along River Road West.

Books were taken off the shelves in predetermined order and passed hand to hand to a fleet of volunteer trucks manned by our dear Rotarians. When the trucks arrived at the new library, they were unloaded and passed person to person to their new home. A little after 1 p.m. library manager Janet Melton placed the last book, a biography The Pigman and Me by Paul Zindel on a shelf.

Shuttling between libraries with a big grin on her face, Atherholt profusely thanked all participants. Book movers chatted about their favorite reads as volumes passed through their fingers, greeted old friend and made new ones before day ended.

Before the doors were closed and the heat turned on, the new library had lived up to one facet of its mission statement: to be a place for community engagement.

The official dedication occurred a bit later in the year on a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Once open, the library seemed as though it had been there forever. Every day our amazing staff tirelessly serves patrons. Books, DVDs, audio books, magazines and other materials stream in and out. The online Pamcat catalog lets patrons order materials for pick up in Goochland. Go to http://www.pamunkeylibrary.org to view all services.

The meeting room soon became a favorite location for meetings and events of all sorts and almost constantly in use.

The Pamunkey Regional Library is a consortium of several counties who pool their resources to provide a wide range of library materials and services to patrons. Interlibrary loan of other materials can also be arranged.

From the start, the library computers have provided the only high speed internet access available to some citizens. A modest expansion currently underway will add additional computers. The structure is funded by cash proffer money collected from new homes. The computers and furniture will be funded by FOGL.

Pamunkey Library cards are free to all Goochland residents. Neighboring jurisdictions like Henrico have reciprocity agreements with the Pamunkey system which enable you to use their materials at no charge.

Please visit and get to know your library. Take a look around and don’t miss the story well and wildlife mural in the children’s section. Painted by local artist Patti Rosner, the mural was funded by FOGL, including a bequest by the late Eva Foster a former District 5 supervisor, and depicts animals that do and did live in Goochland.

FOGL also helps fund programs throughout the year as well as some capital expenses including things like furniture and signage.

The Goochland Branch Library is a local treasure. Come see why and have some cake!