Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A tale of two warehouses

After adoptiong the annual budget, the Goochland Board of Supervisors turned its attention to public hearings on April 21.
Two applications, which at first glance seem similar, but, upon closer examination, are very different, were the lead-off items.

The first matter addressed rezoning and a conditional use permit(CUP) for land just east of Route 288, north of Broad Street Road in the Centerville Village. The applicant, Three Broad, LLC, represented by Tom Kinter, wants to rezone several contiguous parcels to B-1 (Business, general,) and obtain a CUP to allegedly allow construction of a three story, 58,000 square foot self-storage warehouse.

Kinter’s presentation included detailed elevations (pretty pictures) of a warehouse, whose roof is taller than the travel lanes of Rt. 288. How much higher still seems to be in question. The planning commission deferred the project earlier in the year for this very reason, eventually voting 4-1 to recommend approval. Joe Andrews, who represents District 4 on the planning commissioner, was in dissent.

Photos used in the April 21 presentation clearly show trees on the property, which loom over Rt. 288. Surely, someone on staff, or in Kinter’s operation, could measure one of those trees for a height comparison.
As the supervisors worked their way through the presentation, Ned Creasey, District 3, observed that the wording of the CUP application was open ended and could allow a dry cleaner, or about nine other uses, if the warehouse didn’t pan out. Creasey also suggested a balloon test to illustrate the actual height.

Currently, there is a for sale sign on Broad Street Road offering the 3.5 acres in question as zoned B-3, even though the entire parcel has not yet been rezoned. The county sign, announcing pending land use action for the property, seems to have disappeared.
Bob Minnick, District 4, which includes the subject property, raised concerns about traffic impacts of alternate uses. (The traffic study included in Kinter’s applications was based solely on the self-store warehouse.) As the site is part of the arterial management study currently underway, Minnick asked that no action be taken without preliminary findings from the study.
Minnick also wanted a sunset provision on the CUP; mandating expiration if no construction was underway within a certain period after the effective date of the CUP.

Kinter was instrumental in the “urgent” rezoning of lots on the west side of Mills Road in early 2012. At that time, he intimated that there was strong interest in medical offices on the site. To date, only a “for sale” sign has sprouted on that site, while medical office buildings are under active construction on the south side of Broad Street Road in West Creek.

Minnick was not impressed by the $37,000 in new taxes and a handful of jobs that Kinter contended the warehouse would generate, and was unsure about the economic development impact of approving a building with more square footage than Dover Hall 100 yards from Broad Street Road. Minnick contended that there are too many unresolved questions about the project and suggested a 60 day deferral, which could include a “balloon test” to gauge the actual height of the proposed warehouse, and clean up matters.

Kinter, who said he was "committed" to a warehouse, seemed ready to agree to just about anything to secure approval, asked that the decision not be put off for too long. The matter was unanimously deferred until the Board’s June 3 meeting.

A few days later, the Wegman’s grocery chain announced that it will join iconic sporting goods retailer Cabela’s in the West Broad Marketplace planned for the north side of Broad Street, just east of the Henrico line, barely a mile from Rt. 288. This should increase interest in land in the Broad Street Road corridor. The parcel facing Broad on the east side of Mills Road is on the market for more than $2 million.

This warehouse would join a motley assortment of utilitarian businesses on the north side of Broad Street Road. Currently, VDOT is using the corner as a staging area for construction on Interstate 64.

The next agenda item concerned rezoning and a CUP to allow construction of a self-storage warehouse on the eastern side of Blair Road at its intersection with Patterson Avenue. These applications, also for rezoning and CUP, were filed by Goochland resident Randy Milligan, who owns the property and intends to operate the business himself. He was represented in the hearing by local developer Scott Gaeser.

As one of a very few short cuts between River Road and Patterson Avenue, Blair Road is heavily used. Construction of the extensive Collegiate Schools athletic complex nearby a few years ago coupled with residential growth, has exacerbated traffic issues on the narrow to lane road.

The corner in question, just west of Classic Kitchens, would be an ideal location for a convenience store. Indeed, at least one rezoning for that kind of use was rejected years ago. Parcels to the east have been in commercial use for some time. Land on the west side of Blair Road is a cemetery.

Nearby residents raised concerns about increased traffic at an already overburdened intersection. Gaeser contended that self-storage warehouses generate little traffic, and would not add to rush hour congestion. He said that the proposed warehouse would be the least intense use commercial use for the property.

Access to the warehouse will be off of Blair Road, as mandated by VDOT. Gaeser said that the warehouse will be heavily landscaped to soften its appearance on Patterson Avenue and necessary turn lanes, as well as easements for possible future turn lanes will be provided. All storm water runoff will be contained on the property and outside lighting will conform to the county’s “dark sky” provisions.The supervisors unanimously approved this project citing local ownership and low intensity commercial use.

Given the potential for high value commercial development in the Broad Street Road corridor, the supervisors are wise to defer action on vague land use changes. However, they must balance concern about the impact of a particular parcel on development of a wider area, like the Centerville Village, with protection of individual property rights.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Singers needed

The Virginia Benefit Chorale, in cooperation with Grace Episcopal Church, Goochland, will host a community concert to honor the life and works of Shann Palmer, the poet and author, who was also Sharon Radabaugh in most other walks of life. Sharon was a soprano in the Virginia Benefit Chorale, and was the organist and choirmaster at Grace Episcopal Church.

The concert will be on Mothers Day, May 11, at 4:00 pm. featuring Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Steve Davis, There is no charge but donations are needed to defray the costs of the concert. Make checks payable: (see below).
If you are a singer, we need you in the chorus. (no audition) The rehearsal schedule is below.

The program will include:
The Gloria, Antonio Vivaldi
Ave Verum, W. A. Mozart
Laudate Dominum, W. A. Mozart
Rejoice in the Lord Alway, Henry Purcell

Checks should be payable to the Virginia Benefit Chorale, and put in the offering.
Or you can mail checks to:
11130 Sterling Cove Drive
Chesterfield, VA 23838-5158
If you would like your name in the program
please email the director at:
satbsteve@gmail.com 804-338-3266

The rehearsal schedule:
3 Fridays: Apr25, May2, May9 Time 6:30-9:00
3 Saturdays: Apr26, May3, May10
Times on Sat AM: 9:30-12:00 Lunch Break
Times on Sat PM: 2:00-4:00

All rehearsals and the performance at:
Grace Episcopal Church
2955 River Road West
Goochland, VA 23063

Thursday, April 24, 2014

We have a budget

We have a budget
At a special evening meeting on April 21, the Goochland Board of Supervisors approved the proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins on July 1; set tax rates for calendar year 2014; and approved a proposed six year capital improvement plan(CIP). The budget grand total for fiscal 2015 is approximately $65.6 million. (The details, in all their glory, are on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us for all to see. Take a look; they’re spending your money.)

Unlike neighboring jurisdictions, no additional taxes were levied in Goochland and all tax rates--except for the machine and tools tax, which was lowered--remained unchanged. Thanks to an uptick in the value of existing property, which beefed up revenues by more than one percent, retention of the 53 cents per $100 real estate tax rate actually represents a point nine percent tax increase.

Tax bills will soon be generated using the official rates for 2014. First half taxes are due on June 5. If your taxes are not escrowed, and you have not received a tax bill by Mother’s Day, please contact the Treasurer’s Office at 556-5806.
Following the votes on fiscal matters, Board Chair Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 said that the budget is a reflection of the Board’s focus on schools, public safety, and social service programs. The budget includes an increase of $3.5 million for schools; two additional deputies and vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office; and four additional paid fire-rescue providers.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson explained that the final budget has the same bottom line as the proposed budget, but some categories were changed. These revisions include final figures for items including health insurance and Virginia Retirement System that came in below the budget estimate. As a prudent measure, said Dickson, the “surplus will be set aside so we can be ahead of the game next year.”

Alvarez also pointed out that CIP includes $500,000 to begin to address the repurposing of the Central High School/old middle school facility. Too bad the previous regime did little to preserve the structure, which has been vacant since the end of school in the spring of 2007.

Alvarez said that the budget was the product of lots of hard work by all agencies and citizen input, which is “an important part of the process.” He explained that the supervisors went through the county budget line by line and met with department heads to ensure that public funds are wisely spent. He commended county staff for reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Crafting and adopting a county budget that funds local services with available revenues is a complicated process. In still lean economic times, accomplishing this feat through collaboration, compromise, and communication with the citizens without even considering tax increases is remarkable.

The carefully choreographed drama of children begging the supervisors to raise taxes and give the extra money to schools that used to be a regular feature of annual budget hearings are gone. Instead, the supervisors and school board talk to each other and fund local education and other necessary services without breaking the bank.
Prudent money management builds a firm foundation for good government.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The big picture

A detailed look at the relationship between roads and land use in Centerville, specifically, the Broad Street-Ashland Road corridor, has been underway for a few months. Goochland’s supervisors received an update on the process at their April 7 meeting.

The urgency for this study was underscored by comments made by a resident of the area about the dangers of making a left turn onto Broad Street Road from northbound Rt. 288. She suggested prohibiting left turns there until a safer alternative is found.

This “arterial management and Interstate Access Plan for US Route 250 and State Rt. 623,” (AMP) may well turn out to be the elusive master plan for the Centerville Village.

Since last fall, representatives of Goochland County; the Metropolitan Planning Organization; VDOT; and the consulting firm of Kimley-Horn, have been collecting data about existing conditions in the subject area. Supervisors Bob Minnick, District 4--who represents Centerville--and Board Chair Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2, are part of the group.
This AMP, explained county planner Tom Coleman, is a pilot program to study important arterial roadways in the state that are targeted for intense development.

The project manager for the study is former Goochland Principal Planner Brad Shelton, who now works for VDOT. As a VCU graduate student, Shelton created a master plan for the Centerville Village as the studio design project portion of his degree program. That plan, created before VDOT’s final version of the 250 widening—AKA the Centerville Speedway—became reality, included a grid of internal roads parallel to Rt. 250. It also suggested subtle signals to differentiate Centerville from Short Pump.Shelton’s involvement bodes well for a successful outcome.

Creative solutions to problem traffic areas—not just more lanes that need to be maintained—is the goal of the study, as is a process that can be effectively repeated in other places.

Instead of a parcel by parcel review that results in lots of site specific turn lanes and entrances, which increase congestion and accidents, the study will use the “view from 30,000 feet” to look at the entire area. Ideally, this will provide tools to guide economic development to appropriate locations without overwhelming road corridors and encourage harmonious land use.

Although still in the preliminary stages, some of the possible solutions presented to move traffic through and around Centerville were intriguing. One possible road extends the stub of Three Chopt Road from Ashland Road to Rt. 250 just east of Rt. 288. It would curve behind, but have no access to, Bellview Gardens, providing access to interior parcels without impinging on the residential enclave.

The AMP team has already been out in the field investigating current problem areas, including the westbound turn onto Rt.250 from Rt. 288, and had photos to prove it.

Most of the raw land in the Centerville Village must be rezoned to facilitate growth, enabling the supervisors to guide development. By looking at the big picture, the AMP should provide useful information about how changing the use of one parcel of land will affect the rest of the village.

The notion of mixed use, Goochland style, has floated around for a while, but never been clearly defined. People need to live in a village to make it a community, rather than a shopping center. Perhaps the AMP can provide a practical interpretation of this idea that landowners can use right away.

While all of this is going on, the county is starting to design the realignment of Hockett Road to connect with Ashland Road and divert all but the most local traffic away from the existing intersection. Current projections indicate that project should be complete in the next few years.

In the near term, the AMP team will also take a look at the Hockett/Broad intersection. As the McDonald’s nears completion, many believe that something must be done to mitigate traffic hazards there, even if only to install a temporary traffic signal.

The AMP study is a needed follow-up to the expansion of the Centerville Village overlay standards. Crafting a vision for the development of Centerville that is flexible enough to attract a wide range of commercial activity, includes some sort of high density housing, and retains a sense of place is a daunting, but necessary task. The county needs to work with—not against—landowners to encourage appropriate development in Centerville.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April showers

Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors held its April meeting on the rainy Monday of the seventh. Following a strategic plan workshop—the board seems intent on getting this right, not just finished—routine matters of local government were addressed.

Jonathan Lyle, one of Goochland’s intrepid Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District Directors, reported that Goochland was mentioned in a Style Weekly story about the AMC Revolutionary War spy drama Turn that was filmed, at least in part, in the county. (http://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/spies-among-us/Content?oid=2051940) Lyle suggested that Goochland contact the Virginia Film Office to expand business and employment opportunities in the future. He contended that location shoots could bring money and positive attention to Goochland.

Proclamations recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and April 26- May 3 as Hunger Awareness Week were read and unanimously adopted.

The Board passed a resolution urging the governor and General Assembly to pass a timely budget for the Commonwealth so that local governments can operate. Our state politicians lose sight of the fact that their inaction has widespread consequences in the everyday lives of citizens.

The post of county assessor has been vacant since the start of 2014 following the retirement of Glenn Branham. To ensure that statutory requirements are met, the supervisors voted to appoint Commissioner of the Revenue Jeanne Bryant as interim assessor. This arrangement will end when a permanent assessor is hired. Recruitment efforts, which have been ongoing since Brenham’s departure, will continue, said County Administrator Rebecca Dickson.

Senior Management and Projects Analyst Paul Drumwright presented an update on efforts to extend broadband availability to the entire county. The Goochland High Speed Internet Committee, which gathered baseline information and some possibilities for broadband deployment, “went out of business” a while ago. Since then, said Drumwright, some members have continued to pursue remedies for parts of the county that, “suffer from abominable broadband service.”

These include construction of additional cell towers; meeting with Comcast and Verizon to explore the cost of extending fiber to points like the new Hadensville fire-rescue station, Midpoint Industrial Park, Byrd School and the Fife fire-rescue station to ease the way for other providers; seeking ways to attract private sector interest in the area; and investigating the FCCs rural broadband experiments. They are also keeping up with technological developments in this area. See part A of the board packet on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us for details.)

Board chair Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2, reported that, after extensive negotiations and homeowners paying part of the infrastructure cost, Comcast will be available to 120 homes in the Mill Forest Community in Sandy Hook. Mill Forest homeowners used strategies employed by Somerset and Fox Downs.

In the evening, public hearings were held on the proposed tax rates for calendar year 2014; the county administrator’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015; and the six year capital improvement plan (CIP). Except for the machine and tool tax rate, which is proposed to be lowered to $1 per $100 of valuation, no rate changes are proposed. No action was taken, but these matters will be voted on at an April 21 meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m.

The board meeting room was filled with citizens supporting a $500,000 item in the CIP earmarked for the reuse of Central High School. A petition in support of the project signed by more than 300 people who live in all five county districts was presented to the supervisors by Patricia Keel.

Alvarez said that meetings will be held in the near future, probably at the school, to determine the best use of the property.
Following another public hearing, the supervisors unanimously approved a 15 year conditional use permit for Virginia Equine PLLC to operate an equine veterinary practice at 1994 Shallow Well Road. Goochland is horse country, what better way to keep things rural?

The board ended it meeting by going into closed session to discuss plan of development enforcement with County Attorney Norman Sales.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Road show

Intent on keeping campaign promises of transparency, Goochland County’s supervisors held their latest round of district town meetings in March.

Aside from providing an opportunity for citizens to share their concerns with elected and appointed officials, the meetings sought feedback about the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins on July 1, and the proposed six year capital improvement plan (CIP). Public hearings on both of these items will take place starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 7. NOTE: THIS IS A CHANGE FROM THE USUAL FIRST TUESDAY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ MEETING SCHEDULE.

At a dual District 2 and 3 meeting, Elizabeth Nelson-Lyda, president of the Goochland Education Foundation, shared news about the organization. The annual gala, held on March 15, was a success, grossing more than $30,000. The GEF, she explained, has invested more than $100,000 in Goochland’s children by providing funds for items that fall outside the core focus of the school division budget. These include modest stipends for teachers of the year; cultural enrichment; and scholarships to help students move on to the next level of their education wherever that might lead.

(The GEF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; visit www.goochlandedu.org for more information.)
Among the entries on the CIP is a guestimate of $24 million for a new elementary school—location yet to be determined—and a $500,000 “placeholder” amount in the facilities management category for reuse of the Central High School. This structure, also known as the “old middle school,” is located on Dogtown Road near the Sandy Hook Village.

Since becoming vacant in the spring of 2007, little has been done to the venerable structure, built in the 1930’s, which served as the black high school for the entire county.

Although both the old regime of supervisors and school board members knew that the building would be vacant for several years before the middle school wing on the high school was completed, attempts to figure out what to do with it proved fruitless.
Roof issues, which are believed to have exacerbated damage to the floor of a gymnasium, whose use would be a welcome addition to area recreational facilities, complicated matters. The downturn in the economy moved the issue to the back burner as the county faced declining tax revenues. Snarking between the former supervisor and school boards over who would fund reuse of the building was also counter-productive.

Board of Supervisor’s Chair, Manuel Alvarez, Jr., who represents District 2, where Central High School is located, held his first town meeting in the building so that citizens could see its condition for themselves.
Before any action is taken, the county must figure out exactly what the building will be used for; how much of the structure should be renovated; how much will it cost; and where will the money come from. Given that the site probably has asbestos and lead paint, the cost of renovation could be significant.

While there is sentiment for using the core of the structure—there were several additions over the years—as a museum, creation of a community resource to commemorates Central High School and celebrate the achievement of students that walked its halls, might be a better option.

Citizens are encouraged to submit their ideas for Central High School’s future to Alvarez or Goochland County Administrator Rebecca Dickson. (Visit www.co.goochland.va.us for contact information)

Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Lane presented a new video about our schools and shared a gracious plenty of good news. (Visit the schools website www.glndk.12.va.us to learn more.)

Beth Hardy, District 4 school board member, said great things are happening in county schools. She said that she and fellow school board members are active in educational organizations throughout Virginia. “Goochland schools are known throughout the Commonwealth,” Hardy said.

Among the breathtaking, and lengthy, list of accomplishments by those who make Goochland Schools work, Lane said that the Marine JROTC program that will begin in the next school year had 91 students enroll, far above the 75 student threshold.

Dickson said that the county is working to secure its own bond rating later in 2014. In addition to expanding the county’s borrowing options, and saving a bit on interest rates, a high bond rating reflects a fiscally responsible local government. This, in turn, “sends a powerful message” to companies interested in moving to Goochland that is it a good place to do business.
In that vein, Dickson contended that the county budget is a value statement, expressing the priorities of the community. As the school budget won a national award for excellence, our values are high.

Roads were a topic of interest at the District 4 meeting as residents expressed continuing frustration over the lack of a traffic signal at the Hockett/Broad Street Road intersection in Centerville.

Dickson explained that VDOT does not believe that the intensity of traffic at that corner has reached its threshold for signalization. Yet, the intersection serving the apartments and medical offices under constriction opposite Wawa further east is expected to have a light because of expected high traffic volume there.

A study of traffic patterns on Broad Street Road from the Henrico line to Manakin Road and up Ashland Road to Interstate 64 is expected to identify problem areas.

There will be no full cloverleaf at Broad Street Road and Rt. 288—often the site of fierce games of “chicken”—Dickson said, expressing hope that dangerous conditions there will be mitigated.

In a departure from past practices, Dickson announced, Goochland will oversee engineering and design of a proposed realignment of the north terminus of Hockett Road with Ashland Road that will bisect the parcel of land on the south side of Broad and resume south just north of Hickory Haven. It is hoped that this will ease the current intersection congestion.
Concerns about the inadequacy of the westbound I-64 Oilville exit ramp at rush hour when vehicles getting off the road back up into high speed traffic lanes were raised.

The attendance at the meetings for Districts 2 and 3 and District 4 was robust. Goochland is still small enough for citizens to have easy access to elected and appointed officials.

A sign on the historic house gallery in the Arizona State Capitol contends “People get the government they deserve. Good, moral people concerned about others get a good, moral government that cares about the people…In a democracy, each of us is responsible for the quality of our government.”

Goochland citizens must remain engaged and informed to ensure that we continue to have good, moral government.