Thursday, August 7, 2014
The current Goochland County Board of Supervisors regularly uses the term “transparency” to describe its brand of good government. The proposed county strategic plan announces that Goochland will be governed with integrity in a respectful and transparent manner.
Events at the August 5 Board meeting, however, could be interpreted as a return to the opacity of the previous regime, that acted as though citizens were too stupid to understand most matters.
Denise Doetzer of Rock Castle, who is a Master Naturalist and retired state conservationist, made a presentation about designating a portion of the James River a scenic river. Doetzer said that she was asked not to bring supporters of the measure to the meeting as it was for information only.
At the conclusion of her presentation, Doetzer asked the board if it would request that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation perform a study to see if the designation was appropriate. According to the Board packet (available in its entirety on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us)a similar presentation was made in July 2012, at which time no action was taken.
Supervisor Susan Lascolette, District 1, stridently contended that the request for the study will essentially result in an automatic designation and Goochland will lose control over this section of the river.
The Board, still smarting from the infringement of its authority over local land use during the General Assembly brewery kerfuffle, and facing imposition of expensive and cumbersome state mandated storm water control regulations, is understandably leery of any more outside governmental interference. As the federal government seems to be wresting control of every puddle from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River in the name of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, this caution is warranted.
Opponents of the designation used citizen comment time before the Board’s evening session to contend that the designation would reduce the taxable value of land along the river, and cede control to the state.
Baird Stokes, who spoke against the designation, contended that the supervisors were not getting the whole story.
Stu Doetzer said that the request for the study would be made through 65th District Delegate Lee Ware and the county can decline the designation up until the measure is signed by the governor. He contended that the board needs to hear all sides of the matter and gather information before any decision is made. During his remarks, the opponents snickered audibly.
It could well be that designating any part of the James River in Goochland has dreadful consequences and should be avoided at all costs.
Facts supporting or refuting that point of view were notably absent. It seemed like a decision on the matter had been reached in private with limited citizen input.
That is not transparent. It is way too reminiscent of the previous regime that rewarded friends and silenced opponents without justification.
This board is not afraid to make hard decisions; doing so “behind the curtain” is disappointing at best. Given all the time and effort put into a strategic plan whose core values are integrity, respect, and courage, the board can take a little time to hear all sides on this issue. Surely it has the courage to respect all viewpoints and the integrity to openly explain its motives for a decision.
Goochland has come to expect better of our supervisors. They should have the “courage” and “integrity” to “respect” all points of view and “transparently” explain their reasons for reaching any decision. If not, they are no better than the bunch they swept out of office in 2011.