Thursday, December 31, 2015

The more things change....

photo courtesy of the Goochland County Historical Society

In the fall of 1957, 58 years ago, an article in a Richmond newspaper cited Goochland leaders’ worry that the county was going to become “Richmond’s Long Island.”

They seemed to believe that the westward juggernaut of growth in Henrico County would soon consume Goochland as post World War II development transformed Long Island from an agricultural enclave into an enormous bedroom community. Richmond is not New York and lacks the transportation infrastructure—especially a commuter railroad—that abetted the transformation of Long Island.

When “Sputnik” entered America’s vocabulary, in 1957, the county population was about 9,000 souls, mostly farmers. Goochland’s largest employers were its two state prisons and the Luck Stone quarry at Boscobel in Manakin.

Over the years, residential subdivisions, both modest and exclusive, began to dot the county, mostly in the east end. Goochland’s population grew, but gracefully. Today, our population is about 22,000, a slight decrease from previous years due to the closing of a state prison. That will change as the economy strengthens and housing enclaves “on the books” gear up for construction.

The fear of Goochland being overrun by growth from Henrico is front and center once again with some justification. While longtime residents express dismay about development, drawbridge syndrome—I’m here so don’t let anyone else in—seems rampant among newcomers.

Everyone claims they want a “rural” lifestyle, whatever than means. Goochland is still small enough to have a strong sense of community, but that could end if tensions between the exurb east and the truly rural west escalate.

Goochland’s economy has changed too. Now we have several quarries, and major employers in Capital One, Virginia Farm Bureau, and CarMax, to name a few. The production of potent potables at wineries, breweries, and a soon to be cidery, adds more variety to economic development.

The face of development is morphing too. Goochland’s first apartments, in The Notch in West Creek, came online a few years ago with no dire results. At least one mixed use plan is in the works for the Centerville Village. Expect other new enterprises.

In 1957, there was no zoning. Today, every square inch of the county is zoned. This should ensure that all land use changes are made only after careful consideration to avoid unintended consequences.

Long Island exploded in the 1950’s because no one was paying attention. Today in Goochland, everyone is watching!

May your 2016 be filled with good health and joy. Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Response to Scott and Liz

Please see the Goochland 2035 Comprehensive Land Use PLan, which is used to guide land use decisions. It is on the Goochland County website at
Also, feel free to email me at

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Oath of Office

Ned Creasey;Dale Agnew; Bob Minnick;Susan Lascolette;Ken Peterson;Manuel Alvarez. Jr; Pamela Johnson;James Agnew; Beth Hardy;Kevin Hazzard; Jennifer Brown; Mike Payne;John Lumpkins, Jr; and John Wright.

On the gloomy afternoon of December 23, the spirit of governmental service burned bright in Goochland’s venerable Circuit Courtroom.

Judge Timothy K. Sanner administered the oath of office to the county’s newly elected Constitutional Officers, Board of Supervisors, School Board, and Monacan Soil and Water District Director. Deputy clerks of the Treasurer, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and Commissioner of the Revenue also took oaths. Sheriff James L. Agnew and his deputies swore their oaths earlier in the day.

Judge Sanner welcomed those present to a ceremonial--and celebratory--session of Goochland Circuit Court convened for the purpose of swearing in newly elected county officials. He said it is appropriate to honor and acknowledge their commitment to their duties and let them know how much they are appreciated. It is fitting, Sanner said, that this oath taking is conducted in a public setting.

Jonathan Lyle, Monacan Soil and Water District Commissioner

Each official made essentially the same pledge:
“I (name)do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia; that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties incumbent upon me as (insert office)effective January 1, 2016 ending December 31, 2019 according to the best of my abilities so help me God.”

Dale Agnew, Clerk of the Circuit Court and her deputies were sworn in for an eight year term running from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2023.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Sanner took a moment to honor Goochland County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson.
Judge Timothy K. Sanner

“We know that there are a great many unsworn public servants who make great contributions to the public good.
There is no better example of that than the chief administrative officer of this jurisdiction who is retiring in April after six years of faithful and effective service to the citizens of this county. This person has lead Goochland through a remarkable recovery so that is now stands as an exemplar for good government throughout the Commonwealth. Her wisdom, strength, and vibrant personality has motivated those around her to put aside their differences and seek common ground for the good of the county. Whether it be athletics, business, or government, some individuals are simply difference makers. Rebecca Dickson is a difference maker. I would ask that you join me in thanking Rebecca Dickson for her years of meritory service.”

The room erupted in cheers and applause as the assemblage rose to its feet in honor of Ms. Dickson. She offered tearful thanks for the tribute.
Before adjourning, Judge Sanner said that it is his great privilege to serve as Judge in Goochland Circuit Court and wished all present a Merry Christmas.

Board of Supervisors: Ned Creasey, District 3; Bob Minnick, District 4; Susan Lascolette, District 1; Ken Peterson, District 5; Rebecca Dickson, County Administrator; and Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2.

School Board: Kevin Hazzard, District 2; John Lumpkins, Jr. District 3; Beth Hardy, District 4; Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Schools; John Wright, District 5.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Making a "there" here

How do you blend all of the property along the “main drag” of the Centerville Village into a unified whole? The question has been asked many times; no clear answer has yet emerged.

Some people believe that Centerville—essentially the village “core” between Ashland and Manakin Roads—is just fine the way it is. Others think it should be razed and rebuilt.

The village corridor, however, stretches from the Henrico County line to just west of Satterwhite’s on both sides of Broad Street Road.
Recently, a group of landowners, developers, and interested citizens met with professionals from Land Planning and Design Associates, a firm retained by the county to create a “sense of place” for the whole Centerville Village. (Their design fee is part of $100,000 appropriated by the supervisors in the current fiscal year budget to install a streetscape in the Broad Street Road corridor.)

Harmonizing road frontage of private homes, new and existing businesses, forests, fields, bridges, and wetlands protected by guard rails, is a knotty problem.

The DPLA plan divides the corridor into sections: the eastern gateway from the Henrico line to the Rt. 288 interchange; a transition zone from there to Ashland Road; and the core.

Landscape architect Julie Basic and project designer Tristan Cleveland presented elevations that combine trees and shrubs of varying heights, species, and densities along both sides of the road to soften the view.

Existing businesses in the village core may not embrace the addition of landscaping that obscures their enterprise from passing cars and potential customers. Will they be forced absorb the expense of installing and maintaining elaborate plantings?

Additional streetscape elements including white rail fencing; stone markers at major intersections; and more plantings in the median were included in the elevations.

This raised questions about cost and maintenance, specifically, who pays to install the landscaping and who will water the plants and cut the grass?

Basic said that vegetation in the VDOT right of way would be the responsibility of the county, anything else, would be maintained by the landowner.

Trees, grass, and flowers were planted in the Broad Street Road median by VDOT when the “Centerville speedway” was built, but ongoing maintenance fell through the cracks. (It seems VDOT cuts the grass twice a year whether it needs it or not.) The unsightly condition of those areas last summer—high grass, dead trees, and ratty shrubs—sent the wrong message about Centerville.

Since then, the county has cut the grass, mulched the beds and removed dead plants and taken over maintenance.

Basic and Tenant will present a construction plan early next year with planting to follow as weather permits. Upkeep costs were sort of glossed over. More landscaping brings additional maintenance cost, which must be a budget consideration.

The transition from the sterile perfection of the elegantly landscaped Short Pump commercial corridor to the charming seasonal display of flying reindeer pulling a cement truck just over the county line sends a pretty clear signal that you’re in a different place. But, it is the right one? Translating chin music about preserving rural character into sensible development guidelines seems more complicated that requiring a set number of trees per linear foot of road frontage. Where will those reindeer fit in?

Much of the “new” Short Pump was created from scratch since the turn of the century. Centerville, on the other hand, evolved with homes, businesses, fields, pastures, and the Company 3 fire-rescue station, over time. They’re part of the rural atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the county’s design review committee is working with representatives from Audi to find a mutually acceptable design for a dealership on the north side of Broad Street Road, just east of the Rt. 288 interchange.

Audi corporate branding prefers large, flat-roofed buildings with lots of glass frontage. That look is not compatible with the pedestrian scaled peaked roof structure suggested in the Centerville overlay district criteria. A significant portion of the Audi proposed exterior would be covered with a lacelike aluminum honeycomb veil that adds texture to the building. This matter seems to be moving toward consensus.

Although geographically inside the Centerville Village, perceptually this isolated block of land is in Short Pump. Accommodating architecture that falls outside of the overlay district parameters that would fit nowhere else in the county is the highest and best use for this acreage.
The discussions in progress are creative and insightful; they will yield good results if they avoid a theme park notion of rural.

Where will the reindeer go?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Public trust

Long time Goochlanders—often with good reason—are suspicious of county government.

A rezoning application for parcels of land between Manakin and Rockville Roads, unanimously recommended for denial by the Planning Commission at its November meeting, dredged up those old feelings.

The Planning Commission vote followed a lengthy public hearing during which many residents of the Manakin/Rockville Road community spoke in opposition to the proposal.

These people are justifiably alarmed about the impact of dropping nearly 200 homes on 97 acres of farmland. The narrow, winding, hilly roads would be dangerously overwhelmed by the additional traffic, they argued. Although VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”--will perform a safety study on the area during the next six months or so, one does not have to be a traffic engineer to see the problem. Given the paucity road dollars I throughout the Commonwealth, it is clear that there will be no money to improve either Manakin or Rockville Road for a very long time.
More importantly, the rural nature of the area would be irreparably altered by this high density housing; county schools would be overwhelmed by the newcomers.

A meeting organized by these citizens was held on December 10, at the Rockville library. Approximately 15 residents met with Supervisors Ken Peterson, District 5; Bob Minnick, District 4, where the land is located; and members of the county’s community development staff.

This was the third “community meeting” on this matter. The first, which took place last summer, was poorly attended because only a handful of people knew about it. The second, held in October at the Goochland Baptist Church, was attended by a standing room only crowd and featured heated discussion. (The county now posts notice of all community meetings on its website to get the word out to a wider audience.)

Contentions made by the applicant, Wilton Acquisitions, during previous community meetings and the public hearing at the planning commission, morphed into “facts” indicating that the county badly needs the Tuckahoe Creek Service District connection fees to meet its debt service obligations.

The citizens wanted to know how the supervisors will vote on the rezoning application when it comes before them, which is not expected to occur before February, 2016, and could be deferred until as late as November, 2016.

Because the supervisors are prohibited from discussing zoning applications before public hearings, the December 10 meeting agenda focused on the rezoning process and information about the TCSD.

Peterson presented a thumbnail sketch of the origins of the TCSD, which was created to encourage economic development in northeastern Goochland.
Peterson said that a goal of the current board of supervisors, is to increase the tax base ratio to 70/30 percent residential/business from its current approximately 82/18 percent ratio.

The initial financing of the TCSD in 2002 assumed an 11 percent annual growth rate for about 30 years, which never materialized, said Peterson. Debt service under this arrangement was back loaded with the amount of interest due rising each year to give the TCSD time to grow into its obligations. That didn’t happen either. Long story short, when the current board took office in 2012, its first priority was to “refinance” the debt to more manageable levels.

Currently, said Peterson, economic development in the TCSD, coupled with rising property valuations, are sufficient for the county to meet its obligation. Peterson said that TCSD connection fees have no bearing on the debt service, nor do usage fees for water and sewer.

Minnick and Dan Schardein, Deputy County Administrator for Community Development explained that anyone can apply for rezoning to change the approved use of a parcel of land. It is up to a developer to determine what they will ask for. County staff then reviews these applications and makes recommendations about what is appropriate within county zoning law and regulations.

However, the developer can ignore staff comments and request that the application go to the planning commission and supervisors for a vote. This process includes at least one community meeting and public hearings before both the planning commission and supervisors; “three bites of the apple” for citizens to comment on the proposal. Just because a rezoning application is filed, does not mean it will be approved.

Minnick said that the focus of economic development is West Creek, which is about one third developed and Centerville. He compared rezoning applications to a sales pitch where all sorts of things are said to close the deal. The supervisors, with the help of staff analysis, consider the validity of all contentions and make their decisions accordingly.
Peterson sand Minnick said that each rezoning application is judged on its own merits. Benefits of land use changes are weighed against costs for the county. The supervisors are dedicated to balanced growth that does not overwhelm county services including law enforcement; fire-rescue; and education.
“We have to play the hand we were dealt,” Peterson said in reply to angry comments that the decision to develop Centerville was made without the consent of the people of the county. The TCSD pipes are in the ground. They support the economic development that pays for them, he contended. A great deal of effort, including implementation of design standards, has been expended to ensure high quality development in Centerville.

Some people asked how the supervisors could throw out the 2035 comprehensive land use plan--approved last summer--to allow high density development in what is now a rural area.

Peterson emphasized that the Comp Plan is a guide that looks 20 years ahead. He reiterated that because a developer files a rezoning application, it does not mean that it will be approved.

Principal Planner Jo Ann Hunter pointed out that even if all of the development suggested by the 2035 plan materializes, 85 percent of the county will remain rural.

Minnick said that a drastic reduction in the density of the proposal might make it more palatable. However, the developer argued that it needs the 200 lots in order to make the proposed subdivision work financially.

This meeting is a good example of citizens seeking answers to troubling questions. While Minnick and Peterson did not offer any guidance as to how they might vote on this rezoning application, they did take the time to explain TCSD finances and provide insight on the rezoning process. This board believes that citizen engagement is vital to good government. The December 10 meeting was a good give and take.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Generosity close to home

Goochland’s people make it a special place to live. We care about each other and it shows in the success of our non-profit organizations.

Those of you with an extra bean or two are probably planning to make charitable donations before the end of the year. You’ve done well so you can do good and enjoy a tax deduction to boot.

No doubt you’ve been inundated with donation requests from non-profit organizations of every stripe imaginable supporting good works near and far.

While you’ve got the checkbook out think about helping those groups that enrich our community every day.

Goochland’s Christmas Mother program, this year presided over by Diane Gordon, has made the holidays brighter for local families in need for a very long time. Although the season for this organization is December, it will gratefully accept donations all year long. Mail contributions to Goochland Christmas Mother, P O Box 322, Goochland, Virginia 23063. Visit the website at

The Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services is a community based organization that helps Goochlanders who have fallen “between the cracks” of other assistance programs. From its food pantry to medical and dental care, GFFS is the definition of helping those in need. In a cruel twist of fate, the advent of Obamacare seems to have increased the demand for its health care services. Send checks to P O Box 116, Goochland, Virginia 23063, or visit their website:

When children get tangled in the legal system, a group of volunteers with rare dedication to their task, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), act as the eyes and ears of the court. These fine people invest large amounts of their time and talents to find the best outcome for children in peril. Send donations to: Goochland CASA P O Box 910, Goochland, VA 23063. Visit the CASA website at

Our marvelous school board has done a great job keeping education expenditures within the confines of its budget. In this fragile economy, that means paring back or eliminating some extras. The Goochland Education Foundation helps to fill the gaps. Send donations to: Tom Deweerd, Registered Agent, Goochland Education Foundation, 2938-I River Road West, Goochland, Virginia 23063. Visit the website at

Although parts of Goochland are known for their grand homes, some of our citizens cannot afford safe, basic housing. Goochland Habitat for Humanity leverages volunteer skills and donations to build homes. Their address is PO Box 1016, Goochland, VA 23063. See to learn how this group works.

The James River forms the southern boundary of Goochland County. Until a few years ago, there was little public access to enjoy recreational activities on the river. Friends of Goochland Parks, was formed to pursue grants and in-kind donations to “enrich the recreational and leisure opportunities” in a public-private partnership with the county. Last month, ground was broken for a kayak/canoe launch near Maidens Road. Visit their website at, or send a contribution to Friends of Goochland Parks, P O Box 592, Goochland, VA 23063.

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget our furry friends. For the Love of Animals in Goochland, FLAG, is our local animal rescue group. FLAG volunteers rescue and foster pets discarded or otherwise in peril, get them healthy, and place them in suitable homes. They too spend every penny wisely, and right here in our community. Send donations to FLAG, P O Box 115, Manakin Sabot, VA 23103. Visit them online at

May your days be merry and bright!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

To protect and serve

The media seems filled with stories about police misconduct these days. Perhaps the rarity of this kind of behavior makes it news, and the 24 hour news cycle ensures that all incidents are reported nationwide. The actions of a very few bad apples give all law enforcement officers(LEOs)a black eye.

Goochland deputies, like LEOs everywhere, never know what their shift will bring. Simple traffic stops can turn deadly, or a domestic dispute can escalate from shouting to shooting with little warning. They must have the tools to deal with whatever they encounter in a safe and effective manner.

Those tools take many forms; training and equipment top the list.

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew made a presentation about the use of body cameras to the Board of Supervisors at its December 1 meeting.
He had discussed the matter with Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, and Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 about a year ago. That led to a field test of several brands of body cams this year.

Initially, said Agnew, he was skeptical of the value of the devices. Following research on the matter, and a trial of body cams by county deputies, he believes they have a place in law enforcement.

Agnew said that, thanks to television, citizens, and juries seem to believe that forensic evidence--especially DNA and fingerprints--provides fast and irrefutable resolution of crimes.

“There isn’t always DNA, there aren’t always fingerprints,” said Agnew. “Crimes are still solved using plain old gumshoe investigative work.”
But, conceded Agnew, cameras are a part of our world. He played training videos to illustrate how perspective can alter interpretations of “facts” recorded by dash mounted cameras.

In one instance, a camera mounted on a police cruiser seemed to indicate that a LEO drew his weapon on a man who had simply been pulled over for a traffic violation. The footage from the officer’s body cam, however, recorded that, when he got close to the car, he saw a pistol in the front seat. The incident was safely resolved.

Earlier this year, said Agnew, deputies tested three different models of body cams to see how they performed in real world conditions.
Before the trial began, a simple use policy was put into place. The cameras must be manually switched on. Battery life is limited, and routine interactions do not need to be recorded. One of the factors that must be considered when deploying body cameras is data storage.

Agnew said that using servers is expensive and time consuming. A cloud based storage system, similar to that used by the county, seems to be a better solution. Deputies will be able to review their cloud footage on smart phones, but cannot save or edit it. The footage will automatically be deleted from the cloud after a predetermined period of time, probably 60 days.

Should footage of an incident be deemed important, the deputy would tag it for indefinite retention. Deletion from the cloud is automatic, as is upload. Using a physical server would entail deputy overtime to manually download video of their shifts.

Body cams have a limited range of vision. While they provide information about a particular situation, some details might be lost. To illustrate this point, Agnew played footage of a LEO interacting with a man waving a knife. The placement of the camera on the officer cut off the top half of the image. However, the video did show enough of the episode to support the actions taken by the LEO.

The cameras also aid in gathering information at crime scenes. Body cams provide another layer of transparency to reinforce trust between the public and LEOs. The cameras see, and record, things better in low light conditions than the naked eye.

Data from law enforcement agencies around the nation, said Agnew, indicates that the use of body cams has reduced the number of complaints—people tend to behave better when they know their actions are being filmed.

Then Agnew got to the bottom line-deployment cost of body cams. After some trial and error, a shoulder mounted Axon Flex Body Camera was selected for use by 38 Goochland Deputies. Each unit costs $599. The total first year cost for all of the associated bits and pieces--including $1,188 per deputy for cloud storage-- was $64,386.

The useful life of one of these units is about two years, said Agnew. He added that sometimes the cameras, or some of their components break, which will add additional expense.

Although Agnew still has some reservations about the use of body cams, he believes that their use in Goochland helps more than harms local law enforcement. He also advocated deploying them before they are mandated by the state or federal government to get ahead of the curve.

Goochland, said Agnew in response to a query from Alvarez, does not have car cameras, because they are expensive and prone to malfunction.
Lascolette suggested that body cameras be included in the Sheriff’s budget for further discussion early next year.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Year end

Pay taxes here^

Goochland real estate and personal property taxes are due by December 7. If you pay in person, be warned that the Treasurer’s Office has been transformed into Whoville for the holidays.

The final Goochland Board of Supervisors’ meeting for 2015 was highlighted by yet another almost immaculate financial report as the county’s auditor, PBMares, presented the certified annual financial report(CAFR)for fiscal 2015, which ended on June 30.

One material weakness was identified. The county Department of Social Services was unable to redetermine eligibility for Medicaid recipients every 12 months as required by law. In addition to high staff turnover, the state computer system used to process Medicaid is plagued by outages and slowness resulting in a significant backlog statewide, according to a draft report issued by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) on the matter.

Kimberly Jefferson, County Director of Social Services explained that even when her department is fully staffed, problems with the state computer system can take weeks to resolve exacerbating the backlog.

The supervisors on the audit committee, Ken Peterson, District 5; Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1; and Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 wanted to provide whatever assistance Jefferson needs to resolve the situation. They expressed concern that people might slip through the cracks and receive benefits for which they are not eligible.

Jefferson reported that her department is slowly making headway against the backlog, but that could stop if the state system, which is totally out of her control, gets worse.

Peterson, Lascolette, and Alvarez said they will discuss the urgency of the situation to Goochland’s General Assembly delegation in hope of expediting a remedy at the state level.

Mike Garber, PBMares partner overseeing the Goochland audit, said that the dollar impact on the audit is zero. “It’s a statewide issue that is frustrating on the local level.”

Otherwise, Goochland’s CAFR, said Garber, is fantastic. One big change from past years is a new requirement to include pension liabilities in the report. (For those insomniacs out there, the CAFR is on the county website under finance in all its glory.)

Lascolette commended County Registrar Frances Ragland and the Electoral Board: Robin Lind, Bes Stewart, and Wanda Taylor for another round of well-run elections.

Details of performance agreements for the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery facility in West Creek were explained. The Brewery agreed, within the next five years, to create and maintain 56 new jobs and invest up to $28,250,000.

State incentives include: $500,000 from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund; $250,000 from the Agriculture and Forestry Industry Development Fund; and $477,000 in sales and use tax exemptions. Goochland County will provide the lesser of $1 million or ten years of tax rebates. From 2017 through 2020 Goochland will rebate 100 percent of incremental real estate taxes for values above the January 1, 2016 assessed valuation; machinery and tools taxes; and business personal property taxes. From 2012 through 2026, the rebased will be 50 percent until the threshold is reached.

The county retain all ad valorem taxes; utility connection fees; building permit fees; personal property taxes on vehicles; and business and sales taxes. If the Brewery fails to live up to its part of the bargain, proportional amounts must be repaid to the state and the local match will be voided.

(As part of their ongoing commitment to governmental transparency, the supervisors included the entire agreement in their December 1 board packet. Be sure to see the schedule enumerating the amount of locally grown agricultural products expected to be used by the Brewery in beer production.)

During the evening comment period, Jonathan Lyle, one of Goochland’s Monacan Soil and Water Conservation Directors, applauded the county’s support for the new brewery. However, as a voice for the agricultural community, Lyle reminded the board that the number of farms in Goochland is declining and could use county support as well. He cautioned that, come budget season, the MWSCD will be asking Goochland for funding on a par with Powhatan. That, said Lyle, will be approximately $126 per farm per year.

Lyle has a very good point. Everyone says they want to preserve Goochland’s rural character. Rural means agriculture, which means real farms in all of their messy, noisy, and smelly glory. This often conflicts with newcomers’ theme park notion of agriculture.

The Board unanimously approved supplemental school budget appropriations and categorical transfers. This will increase the School Operating fund from $26,861,674 to $27,126,861. These amounts include just $10,000 of appropriated turn-back funds, which was approved by the supervisors in November. See Board packet for complete details.

The County Administrator was authorized to execute a $25,000 purchase order with Harbor Dredge and Dock to build a kayak and canoe launch at Tucker Park. This will be built between January and March of next year to take advantage of off season construction costs and be ready for use in the spring.



Monday, November 30, 2015

Seasonal events in Goochland

Even though it seems like the Fourth of July was only last week, Goochland starts celebrating Christmas this week.

Bethlehem Walk begins its twelfth season on Wednesday, December 2 at the Broad Street Road campus of Salem Baptist Church, a few miles west of Centerville. An evocative tour of first century Bethlehem brings the meaning of Christmas to life as you walk the streets of the town at the time of Jesus’ birth. This free event is outdoors and takes about 45 minutes, so dress for the weather. The terrain not suitable for wheelchairs, however, “motorized chariots” are available. Hours are: December 2, 6 – 9; December 3, 6 – 9; December 4, 6 – 10; December 5, 4 – 9; and December 6, 3 – 8. (See for details.)

Goochland’s Community Christmas Tree lighting and holiday celebration will be held on Friday, December 4, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Goochland Sports Complex, on Sandy Hook Road near its intersection with Fairground Road in Courthouse Village. The tree will be lit; a certain elf type who favors red suits will put in an appearance; and a good time will be had by all.

Centerville Fire-Rescue Company 3 will hold its annual Santa Breakfast on Saturday, December 5 from 7:00 to 10 a.m. at its station located at 52 Broad Street Road in Centerville. Company 3 volunteers will prepare and serve a free breakfast. That fellow in the red suit will be available for consultation with all good children. Come enjoy breakfast and get to know the folks who save lives and protect property in our community every day.

Field Day of the Past opens its grounds on Ashland Road, north of Broad Street Road, on Saturday December 12 from 4 to 8 p.m. to thank the community for 25 years of fun. Take advantage of this free event to stroll through a simpler time in Goochland . Peek inside buildings from yesteryear that were moved to the show grounds decked out in holiday finery. See how the season is celebrated in a log cabin. The post office will be open for children to draft letters to Santa. This will all take place beneath the giant star.

These savors of the season remind us that Goochland is a special place.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Branding Goochland

Branding--creating a particular image by use of words or symbols—is part of our daily life. Food, clothing, places, and pretty much anything you can think of, have brands these days.

Earlier this year, the Goochland Board of Supervisors adopted a county logo. This streamlined symbol mingles barns and office buildings to indicate Goochland’s desire to provide options for all to prosper. Sounds great in theory, but things get tricky in practice.

During design discussions for both the McDonald’s and Taco Bell (now under construction) in Centerville, branding was the gazillion pound elephant in the room. The county wanted to mute the golden arches and purple bell, while the corporate honchos of the national chains protested any infringement on their corporate identities. After a good bit of wrangling, consensus was reached.

Design standards in Centerville, the county’s current development hot spot, were upgraded to encourage high quality development. The language in the standards and the county’s recently adopted 2035 Comprehensive Land Use Plan is purposely broad with the hope that they will create a matrix enabling businesses small, medium, and large, as well as companies local, regional, and national to exist in close proximity. A healthy mix of successful enterprises will encourage a prosperous community.

Sounds great in theory, but the devil is in the details.

The county’s three appointee design review committee (DRC) met on November 16 to address only the architecture of an Audi dealership planned for the north side of Broad Street Road, just west of Rt. 288. The applicant plans to move forward with rezoning for the entire site after obtaining this certificate of approval.

The first piece of good news from this meeting is that LGP, LLC, the entity proposing the dealership, has acquired adjacent parcels with the intent of combing a number of different commercial uses in a master. One of the parcels was the site approved for a dreadful indoor self-storage facility on the eastern flank of Rt. 288.

Three different designs were presented, the first two, sleek, industrial, metal buildings, are approved by Audi corporate and come with generous corporate financial incentives for their use. The third version, using masonry and less glass, would seem more appropriate to Centerville.
The applicant, Larry page, a Goochland resident, said “This is my neighborhood, I want to get it right.”

Even though the overlay district applies to all of Centerville, the stretch of Broad Street Road, east of Rt. 288 is a transition zone between Short Pump and Centerville. The south side is part of West Creek and governed by internal design standards and those of the overlay district. The north side of what is indeed a broad street, currently raw land or home to heavy industry.

An internet tour of Audi dealerships in affluent areas around the country—this business should be right in line with the aspirations of our dear friend Mrs. Upscale Demographic—seems to indicate that car dealerships are routinely banished to the bypass.

Embracing a carefully designed, sited, and landscaped Audi dealership in Goochland’s gateway corridor announces that you’re not in Short Pump any more. Broad Street between Pouncey Tract and the county line efficiently moves traffic through an anonymous commercial area. Signage--some tasteful some dreadful--fights for the attention of motorists zipping along in three lanes of traffic. Centerville’s overlay standards, on the other hand, place businesses closer to the road and banish parking behind buildings for a more personal feel.

Harmonizing--not mandating--architecture, size, and materials will provide opportunities for all sorts of enterprises to thrive in Centerville and give a timeless feel to the area. The willingness of Mr. Page and the DRC to work toward a mutually acceptable solution bodes well for the future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November Board meeting highlights

The Goochland Board of Supervisors began its November 4 meeting by recognizing county employees marking five year increment service anniversaries. The employees recognized have served the citizens of Goochland for a combined total of 315 years.

County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson thanked them all for their service. “You can’t do anything without a dedicated staff,” she said.
Retiring Commissioner of the Revenue Jean Bryant marked her 35th year with Goochland. Our amazing Registrar Frances C. Ragland has been keeping county elections straight for three decades. (See the Board packet on the county website at for the complete list.)

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1 recapped the recent round of district town hall meetings. Since taking office in 2012, this board has held 40 such gatherings. Lascolette said that the board will continue the practice to keep their constituents informed about local government.

Monday, November 9 was the deadline for comments on the pending permits for land application of biosolids in Goochland. Dickson said that the county will request an increase in buffers around all occupied dwellings and that buffers near roads be increased from ten to 100 feet. The county will support all comments made by citizens. A request that trucks transporting biosolids use only arterial road ways and notify Goochland County of their routes in advance of transport will also be made. Dickson cautioned that those requests may not be granted by the Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees the permits.

Goochland County, in Dickson’s name, received The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the current year’s budget (see county website for complete wording) from the Government Finance Officers Association. “This award is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting and represents a significant achievement by your organization,” Stephen J. Gauthier, Director of the GFOA Technical Services Center explained in the award’s transmittal letter.

The Board unanimously voted to adopt the Arterial Management Plan (AMP) for the Broad Street/Ashland Road corridor in Centerville. This is the product of about 18 months of meetings with citizens, landowners, count officials, and other stakeholders in the Centerville area. While the AMP contains some curious elements, especially the need for a road crossing Rt. 288 north of Broad Street Road, it provides a long term estimate of future traffic patterns.

A total rewrite of Goochland County laws is underway. Assistant County Attorney Whitney Marshall explained that the entire county code will be systematically reviewed to ensure that local laws comply with those of the state; are clear as to intent and consequences; and are well-organized. Each section will be subject to board approval following a public hearing.

Marshall presented Chapter One: General Provisions, which lays out rules for interpreting the Code and explains penalties for violations. This is an organizational chapter. The Supervisors voted to set a public hearing to address this portion of county law at their December 1 meeting. The full text is included in the November 4 board packet beginning on page 57.

A public hearing for December 1 was set to consider addition of an approximately 8.647 acre parcel of land south of Kinloch to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. The property’s assessed value as of January 1, 2015 was $219,300. The Board should look favorably on this matter as it will increase the value of land in the TCSD and generate new ad valorem taxes.

Following that, the supervisors authorized Dickson to execute a contract for an amount up to $315,500 and approve a contingency for up to $49,500 for improvements to the eastern pump station. The funds were appropriated from the countywide utility fund. Unspent monies will be returned to that fund.

Deputy County Administrator for Financial Services John Wack asked the board to approve assigned uses of the approximately $1.4 million unallocated surplus from the Fiscal Year 2015, which ended on June 30. For the past few years, the county has run surpluses at the end of the fiscal year.

The allocation list (see Board packet page 84 for details) includes: $750,000 for a new animal shelter; $50,000 for the Broadband Plan; and $30,000 for storm water permit software.

The Board also approved a request from Wack to amend the FY 2016 budget to include $37,000 for one time bonuses granted to employees in the Constitutional offices.

In his report on the first quarter of FY 2016, Wack said that overall revenues are expected to exceed expenditures by approximately $4.2 million. Adjusted for bank stock taxes and expected year end reserves, the figure is $1.7 million.
Revenue projections show a modest increase, but not back to 2009 levels, explained Wack.
District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick nominated John Shelhorse for the vacant District 4 seat on the Planning Commission. The Board unanimously approved the nomination.
Minnick said that he received five very high caliber applications for the vacancy and spent a lot of time with each of them.

During its evening session, the Board unanimously approved an ordinance requiring animals on public property to be properly leashed or under control of their owners. This applies only to county property including public parks and school grounds. This does not apply to private property.

The “lambing law,” which requires that all dogs in the county be leashed or otherwise contained from April 1 to May 31 is still in force.

Eric Krause, a professional dog trainer, explained that he works with dogs that have “control issues” and often uses public parks to socialize them. Kraus said that dogs running without any control from their owners in county parks are a serious problem. County Attorney Norman Sales explained that the ordinance could be enforced by animal control officers or deputies.

A public hearing was held on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which is the product of an 18 month collaboration involving county staff, the Recreation Advisory Committee, and citizens.

The Plan includes recommendations for improvements to existing facilities and identifies the need for new ones. Cost estimates for each element of the Plan are included. The net total to fund the entire Plan is $1,540,000, which includes $575,000 already funded in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.

Dickson explained that items must be identified in the Parks & Rec Master Plan to be eligible for inclusion in the CIP. Acceptance of the Plan does not guarantee funding.

At the end of the evening meeting, the Board went into closed session to discuss the duties and performance of the county administrator. The next morning, we learned that Rebecca Dickson announced that she plans to retire in April.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Planning Commission gives thumbs down

At its November 5 meeting, the Goochland Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommended denial of a rezoning application filed by Wilton Acquisitions that would result in nearly 200 homes on approximately 97 acres of land between Manakin and Rockville Roads in the Centerville Village.

John Shelhorse, a homeowner in The Parke at Saddle Creek, was appointed to represent District 4 on the Planning Commission at the November 4 Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Shellhorse was duly sworn in and well-prepared to participate in the November 5 discussion.

The vote followed a lengthy public hearing, during which 24 citizens raised a variety of objections to the proposed Glenns of Rockville subdivision. These included concerns that both Manakin and Rockville Roads, regardless of traffic studies submitted with the rezoning application, are narrow, winding, and hilly. These roads, speakers said, are dangerous with current levels of use. Adding hundreds of new cars to the mix without significant road improvements, for which VDOT has no future plans, will threaten the health, safety, and welfare of citizens.

Other objections focused on school impact. Randolph Elementary School is in the process of deploying its first “education cottage” AKA trailer, to accommodate growing enrollment. One parent said that county school buses are already overcrowded. Additional students would only make that situation worse.
The Commissioners agreed that the roads are dangerous. One characterized the proposal as spot zoning.

The 2035 comprehensive plan, which can be viewed in its entirety on the county website, was cited by both the applicant and opponents.

While wandering around in the weeds of the Comp Plan arguing about the appropriate place for high density development, no one mentioned that the title of that document is the 2035 comprehensive plan. It is a guide for how the Centerville Village, might look in 20 years, not tomorrow.

As long as cows graze next to the Shell station and corn grows in the shadow of the water tower, high density development outside the village core--both sides of Broad Street Road between Manakin and Ashland Roads—is a long way off.

Currently, there are several approved subdivisions waiting for the right economic conditions to break ground. Even without The Glenns, county services will be stressed if they develop simultaneously.

Maybe in 15 years or so, the school system will be able to handle more students and, by some miracle, funding for significant improvements to both Manakin and Rockville Roads will have materialized. But, right now, right there, is the wrong place to site hundreds of new homes.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Goochland County Adminsitrator Announces Retirement

Rebecca T. Dickson

This morning, Goochland County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson, known to everyone as “Becky,” announced her intention to retire effective April 1, 2016 to focus her considerable attentions personal health issues.

The intrepid Ms. Dickson rolled up her sleeves and got to work transforming a dysfunctional local government into one that is a model for its peers.

Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of Becky’s tenure, and there have been many, is cleaning up the county’s finances. Goochland’s 2009 certified annual financial report(CAFR) contained dozens of misstatements. Earlier this year, the county earned a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s.

We wish her the best.
Text of press release:

November 5, 2015

Goochland County Administrator, Rebecca Dickson, announces her retirement from Goochland County effective April 1, 2016. In a closed meeting of the Board of Supervisors last night, Ms. Dickson, Goochland’s Administrator since July 2009, advised the Board of her decision to retire next spring.

In her statement, Dickson expressed the following sentiment, “I cannot fully express my gratitude and honor for being able to serve the County these past six and a half years. Goochland County now serves as an example for many. While I want nothing more than to serve the County for many more years, it is coming time for me to focus more intently on my family and my health. Another exciting time awaits and I must get to it. I will leave the County in the best of hands-yours, the dedicated staff and our passionate citizens.”

Dickson has served in local government for over 25 years. Prior to coming to Goochland, Dickson served in Chesterfield County for 19 years, primarily in the roles of Budget Director and Deputy County Administrator for Human Services.

Retiring in early spring will enable Ms. Dickson to work with the Board on the budget and capital plan for the next fiscal year and will provide the Board of Supervisors time to consider their next steps in selecting a leader for the County.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

About the election

Goochland voters went to the polls yesterday, November 3, 2015, and elected Dale Agnew as Clerk of Court, and Jennifer Brown as Commissioner of the Revenue by overwhelming majorities. Congratulations to these fine women for running civil campaigns, and thanks to both of them for years past, and future, of distinguished service to our community.
In spite of a deluge of inflammatory emails, robocalls and advertising, Goochland voters repudiated nasty campaigns that loudly hurled scurrilous charges to detract from candidates’ total lack of relevant skills and experience.

As a community, we should be especially grateful to the good people who work from “cain’t see to cain’t see” every Election Day to man the polls.

Also, our fine Electoral Board: Robin Lind, Bess Stewart, and Wanda Taylor put in countless hours throughout the year to ensure fair elections. Registrar Frances Ragland, the best, in the Commonwealth goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that all eligible voters cast ballots.

As the county has no real newspaper and the Chamber of Commerce decided not to get involved, this year’s election was held in a vacuum. Well-funded rumor and innuendo replaced open, thoughtful discussion of issues. Goochland voters saw through the smoke and mirrors, but it wasn’t easy.

Goochland badly needs an impartial organization to organize candidate forums where voters can hear candidates to state their case for election and respond to charges from their opponents. Without a mechanism where citizens can pose questions to the candidates, the campaigns get to control the election narrative.

The Goochland Chapter of the NAACP is to be commended for holding this year’s only election forums. Sadly, they were lightly attended.

It’s time for all political parties, churches, and civic organizations like the NAACP to come together and create a mechanism where voters can “kick” the tires of all candidates in all elections. Forums could be live streamed and archived for greater distribution.

It’s time to make sure that all local elections, which all too often take place below the radar screen of Goochland citizens, get the attention they deserve.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Vote Tuesday, November 3

Goochlanders are the votingest Virginians—at least in Presidential elections. For the past few leap years, county voters went to the polls in higher percentages—about 85 percent in 2012—that any other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth. Certificates from the State Board of Elections commending our voters are on display in the office of Goochland Registrar Frances Ragland.

This year turnout at Goochland polls is expected to be very low because there are only two contested races. (See GOMM Meet the Candidates.)
Unless you are a wealthy, white male property owner, someone struggled mightily to secure your right to vote. The Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements opened participation in the Sacrament of Democracy—elections--to all citizens.

In America no one forces you to vote. Sadly, people are increasingly turned off by slick negative campaigns and don’t bother to go to the polls. The antics of major political parties seem designed to repel all but a small core of easily controlled followers from the political process. The fewer voters that cast ballots, the easier a particular group can manipulate the outcome of an election, especially when votes are all too susceptible to endlessly repeated strident declarations of “facts”.

Please take a few minutes to vote on Tuesday. Our incumbent elected officials--Constitutional Officers, Supervisors and School Board--have done a great job during the past four years. Even though they are running unopposed, casting a ballot for them is a simple way of saying thanks for all of their hard work in the past and encouraging more of the same in the future.

Let’s make sure that this election is a true reflection of the will of the majority of Goochland voters.

Go to to find out where you vote. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Take your kids and let them see you participate in democracy. It will not take long. While you’re there, thank the fine folks who man the polls for their public service. Be sure to bring a photo ID to prevent corruption of the electoral process.

Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. See you at the polls!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and real world skills

Chef Stephanie Charns and student in the CTE commercial kitchen

Dr. Antionique Jones and student in the Nursing Aide lab. The manikins simulate real patients.

Mark, a student in the Heavy Equipment and Construction Management program explains the backhoe exercise.

The career and technical education center at Goochland High School held a community open house on Sunday, October 25. If you missed it, weep.

The CTE program currently offers classes in several areas including: practical nursing; heavy equipment operation; Marine Junior ROTC; and culinary arts.
Students completing studies in these areas are well- equipped to continue their education and have marketable job skills.
Bruce Watson, CTE Director, contended that students who successfully complete the heavy equipment operator program are qualified to hold jobs paying $60,000 out of high school.

Palpable positive energy flowed freely during the open house as students demonstrated their learning paths.

In the practical nursing classrooms, regulation hospital beds are occupied by lifelike training manikins that students use for hands on experience. Another manikin has speakers so students can hear heart sounds as they learn to take blood pressure the old fashioned way with a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer.

Head of the Nursing Aide education faculty, GHS alumnus Dr. Antionique Jones, is a graduate of the VCU School of Nursing, and holds a doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia from the VCU School of Allied Health Professions. Upon successful completion of this CTE course, students are equipped to sit for the national exam for nurse aides and secure employment.

Jones believes that her program also provides students with exposure to a wide range of jobs in the medical field that could lead to satisfying and successful careers. Second year students assist the staff at the Meadows nursing home in Sandy Hook for hands on experience. Still actively employed in the health care field , Jones enjoys combining her professional skill and passion for education.

The Marine Junior ROTC program is also part of the CTE program. Cadets learn and practice important life skills including leadership, organization, personal discipline, and management. Not all marching and physical fitness, the MJROTC course has a cyberwar team that participates in simulated cyber-attacks.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Strong, lead instructor in the Marine JROTC program, said that, in addition to preparing students for military service, the JROTC program makes cadets proficient in areas including personal accountability, organization, and management that enable them to secure team leader jobs.

Food prepared and served by Chef Stephanie Charns’ Culinary Arts students filled the Goochland Tech facility with delicious aromas during the open house. A state of the art commercial kitchen AKA the food lab and a dining room gives students in this program hands on lessons in many facets of food preparation.

Chef Charns acknowledges that not all of her students will pursue food related careers. Students who complete the culinary arts program, however, will know how to work a restaurant food preparation line and always be able to find a job.

Students in the heavy equipment and construction management program helped renovate existing buildings that now how the CTE program.
The heavy equipment “lab” includes welding equipment and industrial ventilation systems. Ditch digging rises to a new level as students must demonstrate their proficiency with backhoe by excavating a straight trench of a certain length and uniform depth to pass the class.
Goochland Tech’s heavy equipment program is only the second to be offered in Virginia.

There are many more components to Goochland’s CTE program. Our high school students sample a wide range of career options and master real world skills so they can hold the jobs that build America. The program is a good investment in the future of our students and country.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

District 4 Town Hall HIghlights

Bob Minnick, who represents Goochland’s District 4 on the Board of Supervisors and Beth Hardy, his counterpart on the School Board, held their fall town hall meeting on October 22.

Qiana Foote, Director of Information Technology gave a brief overview of the new county website. She encouraged everyone to visit the site ( and contact her with questions or comments.

Minnick said that in addition to the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which will build a $28 million facility in West Creek, site work has begun for the Audi dealership just east of Rt. 288. Minnick said that outparcels on Audi site are also being developed for restaurants.

An arterial management plan (AMP) was completed and approved earlier this year for the Ashland/Broad Street Road corridor. Minnick explained that transportation—read roads—improvements to come out of this are expected to include extra lanes and traffic signals at the Broad Street Road/ Rt. 288 intersection.

Application of Biosolids--residue from wastewater treatment plants--on local farmland has also been on the supervisors’ agenda. Goochland, said Minnick, has some real concerns about exactly what this stuff contains and the possible cumulative consequences of its use as a soil amendment. To that end, the county has worked with citizens to share information about pending application permits.

As part of its legislative agenda—matters of special local concern shred with our delegation to the Virginia General Assembly—the supervisors will request that an impartial multi-year detailed study about the practice be undertaken. A list of specific substances to be tested is included.

Under current state law, localities have no power to stop the practice.

Minnick reminded those present that the county earned a AAA bond rating—better than that of the Federal Government--from Standard and Poor’s earlier this year. This is the latest step in the Board’s efforts to restore financial stability, accountability, and public trust in local government. The rating, said Minnick will help the county obtain the most favorable terms when borrowing money in the future.

Goochland needs a new animal shelter, Minnick said. The current facility at the entrance to Hidden Rock Park is not adequate to serve the animal welfare population of our growing county. A new shelter is expected to be funded through a public/private partnership. A special person, with exception organizational and fund raising skills, is needed to lead private the non-profit part of this initiative. A two year commitment will be required.

Minnick declared that a District 4 Planning Commissioner will be put forward for appointment by the supervisors at their November 4 meeting, sworn in, and ready to deliberate on the November 5 Planning Commission agenda. No names were mentioned.

Any meeting in District 4, home of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, would be incomplete without a discussion about public utilities, AKA public water and sewer.

Todd Kilduff, county Director of Public Utilities reported that, thanks to recent completion of a utilities master plan, problems with water odor and pressure in the Centerville area are being addressed, and should be resolved in coming months. The Utility Master Plan is posted in its entirety on the county website.

The ad valorem tax, currently an extra 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation levied most burdensomely on homeowners in eastern Goochland, is not expected to increase, said Minnick. Nor will it decrease any time soon. The advent of new businesses will raise ad valorem tax revenue, but the TCSD debt service is also growing. About $100 million of new investment in the TCSD is needed each year to stay even.

Beth Hardy said that she enjoys the opportunity to share the good news about Goochland Schools. Because our school division has gotten so many accolades—a two pager—she mentioned the highlights.

Visit the schools website,, and download this year’s Explorations in Learning annual report for the whole story.

Outstanding test results, said Hardy, were achieved by not by focusing on SOLs but by “meeting the students where they are and getting them to where they need to be.” Empowering teachers to do what they need to do in the classroom is a very effective education strategy.

Hardy said that 73 percent of our high school students are enrolled in one or more of the Career and Technical Courses (CTE) and they love them.
She remarked that the great strides made by Goochland Schools in the past four years are in no small part the result of the collaboration between the supervisors and school board. The supervisors supported the CTE initiative, which includes the Marine Jr. ROTC corps, with additional funding for facilities and staff.

Good news travels fast, resulting in growth in our student population. Hardy reported that a “learning cottage” is being installed at Randolph Elementary School to accommodate its burgeoning student body.

School Superintendent Dr. James Lane, explained that the “trailer” at RES will be located on land adjoining the school, which will also provide space for additional parking.

The county had needed a new elementary school for a while. A $21 million “placeholder” is in the capital improvement plan to build this school sometime during the 2020 fiscal year. (To date, no specifics about the location or other details have been discussed. This needs to be moved to the front burner.)
Lane said that the successful programs in place at Goochland schools should be able to absorb additional students for at least two decades. He also said that the school division plans to teach computer coding—programming—at all grade levels in the near future. Lane said that will provide students with a skill very much in demand in the job market that requires no college degree.

Another evergreen subject in District 4, the bridge connecting Ridgefield Parkway in western Henrico with Tuckahoe Creek Parkway, was discussed.
District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr., who represents the county on regional transportation boards, explained that construction of the bridge is unlikely in the near future because Henrico does not want it. While our delegation to the General Assembly will not intervene in the matter, Alvarez suggested that there may be a “backdoor” strategy to support the bridge. None of this will happen any time soon.

The hope that HCA, which operates the West Creek Emergency Center, would support the bridge so it could justify building a full hospital in West Creek will not happen. Minnick said that HCA leases the West Creek facility, which has attracted fewer clients than anticipated. Minnick does not expect HCA to renew its lease, preferring a presence in the Henrico Broad Street corridor.

A citizen questioned the assumption in the AMP that, by 2035, there will be 100,000 cars a day moving through the Ashland/Broad Street Road corridor and wanted to know where they were coming from. Minnick said that the AMP assumed that every parcel of land adjoining those roads would be “built out to the max.” He conceded the assumption is probably not realistic, “But we had to start with something.”

Several speakers addressed the proposed “Glenns” subdivision (see GOMM Back to the drawing board?) declaring it is not appropriate for winding country roads and would swamp our schools with a flood of new students.

Minnick said that he has not yet decided how he will vote on the proposal, but said that its impact on schools is part of the decision.

Kudos to our elected officials for meeting with their constituents on a regular basis. Citizens are beginning to understand that they can speak their minds at these sessions and be taken seriously.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Back to the drawing board?

Twin Hickory Lake Drive is what a connector road should look like

A community meeting to gauge community reaction to a pending rezoning application for parcels of land with frontage on both Manakin and Rockville Road filled the fellowship hall of Goochland Baptist Church on Monday, October 19.

The Planning Commission deferred action, at the request of the developer, on the application, originally scheduled for October 1 for 30 days. It is currently scheduled to be heard at the November 5 Planning Commission meeting.

Before we get any further into the weeds of this subject, a couple of things must be said. Any land owner has the right to apply for rezoning or other land use changes. That does not mean the change will happen. The Planning Commission is an appointed advisory body that has only the power to recommend land use action. The final say rests with the Board of Supervisors.

A citizen contended that any action on the pending application should be deferred until the vacant District 4 seat on the Planning Commission is filled to ensure that those who live in District 4 are represented.

That is a valid point. However, it would not be the first time that District 4 had no Planning Commission representation on an important zoning matter.

Several years ago, during the previous regime, the Planning Commission held a public hearing, and voted, on rezoning applications for several parcels of land around the Interstate 64/Oilville Road interchange, also in District 4. One of the two District 4 commissioners—Goochland had a 10 member Planning Commission then-- was unable to attend the meeting, and the other, a realtor representing some of the land in question, had to recuse himself from consideration of the matter.

As District 4 will be ground zero for many near term land use changes, it needs a planning commissioner immediately if not sooner.
Back to the meeting.

Developers did not seem to expect a standing room only crowd for the discussion. Their remarks seemed tailored for the planning commission rather than for the neighbors.

The condensed version is that the developer hopes to build no more than 191 homes on 97 acres. The subdivision will be configured in two “wings,” one with a main access to Manakin Road the other off of Rockville Road. Separating the wings is a creek that will be crossed via a bridge that the developer plans to build.

As planned, the proposed subdivision will be nicely done, well landscaped, and have walking trails and a gazebo! It was a little hard to digest the protestations that the houses will not be of the “cookie cutter” variety when renderings showed homes that look very similar as to mass, height, and color pallet.

There was a lot of discussion about the cost of the bridge, but the neighbors, who have gotten along just fine without a bridge over that creek all these years, were not impressed.

During the presentation, the county’s recently revised comprehensive land use plan was cited. Comp plans tend to be documents that can be used to support or refute any argument. In this case, the Centerville Arterial Management Plan (AMP) was referenced.

The AMP is the result of a year-long study of actual and anticipated traffic in and around the Centerville area. One of its elements is a connector road between Manakin and Rockville Roads well north of Broad Street Road. The intention of this connector road is to move traffic from the Manakin Road corridor to Ashland Road and I64 without going through Centerville.

As presented in the rezoning application, the “connector” road would be essentially a neighborhood street with driveways every 75 feet or so. Given the small lots, expect cars parked in the street. This road was touted as necessary to reduce response times between the Centerville Company 3 fire-rescue station and Rockville Road. A Company 3 volunteer pointed out that St. Matthew’s Lane, an existing road, already provides fast access to Rockville Road.

Although the AMP shows the connector road between Manakin and Rockville Roads as a “cut through,” the developers insist it will be just a neighborhood road. At some point, the intersection of Rockville and Ashland Roads would be signalized to ease movement of traffic northbound to I64.

The developer’s engineer did say that they planned to mitigate as many of the site distance issues as they could on land they control. This includes shaving hills and humps near the entrances on both Rockville and Manakin Roads.

Another speaker on the developer’s team addressed the benefit to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, even though he kept referring to the eastern Goochland public utility as the Tuckahoe Service Creek. Citizens in the room, who probably have well and septic at home and have been assured by the supervisors that the TCSD debt is under control, do not give one hoot about helping out the TCSD by putting more traffic on roads they travel daily. They also do not care how many houses need to be built to make building the bridge economically feasible.

GOMM did not stay for the entire meeting, but it was pretty clear that the developer needs to rethink some portions of the proposal. If the connector road will not be used as a “cut through” why bother with the bridge?

Why not just build two separate smaller subdivisions and leave the creek and wetlands alone? The developer seems to suggest that it should be granted higher density development in return for building the connector “road” and cash proffers in the application are reduced accordingly.

If indeed, the developer builds a true connector road, higher density credit should be considered. As presented, this proposal does not fit the bill.

Friday, October 16, 2015

About the Clerk's race

The Goochland Republican Committee and Tea Party—the two groups are very cross-pollinated—have joined forces with the anti-sheriff contingent to defeat the incumbent Clerk of Court because she is married to the sheriff. The "RepubliTeas" are quite willing to trade decades of experience, attention to detail, and spotless audits, for someone with no relevant work experience.

The incumbent Clerk, the Hon. Dale Agnew, who was sworn in as Clerk last December to complete the remainder of the term of the Hon Lee G. Turner, has served a 32 year apprenticeship, becoming familiar with each of the 800 sections of the Code of Virginia that govern the duties of the Clerk’s office.

She is being challenged by Keith Flannagan, a founder of the Goochland Tea Party who keeps bees, is a master gardener and naturalist, and has worked hard on various rural preservation groups.

The "RepubliTeas" are trying to capitalize on expected low voter turnout and “little town hate” to defeat a competent and experienced Clerk. In spite of their best efforts, they can find no evidence of error or complaint. Indeed, Dale Agnew is responsible for decades of clean audits of all financial duties of the Clerk’s office, so the RepubliTeas resort to vague allegations so ugly they are almost laughable.

Duties of the Clerk of Court require meticulous attention to detail to ensure accurate recordation of a wide range of public documents from deeds to marriage licenses.

Flannagan contends he has this skill. However, while touting service on the Goochland Electoral Board on his website, he referred to his predecessor as Herb “Griffin”. The surname of the gentleman in question, who Flannagan has known for years, is “Griffith”.

His campaign has ginned up numbers contending that Dale Agnew is mismanaging the clerk’s office by having too many employees, citing the same office in Powhatan as reference.

GOMM took a field trip south of the James and met with the Hon. Theresa Hash Dobbins, Powhatan’s incumbent Clerk. She graciously spared a few minutes to help set the record straight.

Her staff, said Dobbins, consists of five full time employees and one part time worker. She said that she needs two additional employees, which the Powhatan supervisors declined to fund.

Flannagan cites, as evidence of mismanagement, State Compensation Board staffing formulas, which are designed to reduce the amount of state money that flows to jurisdictions to fund Constitutional Offices, forcing localities to pick up the slack.

Dobbins pointed out that Comp Board starting salaries are roughly equivalent to that of fast food workers. To hire competent employees capable of providing adequate service to the citizens, local supplements are needed, she said.

A significant difference between the Goochland and Powhatan Clerk’s office that has an impact on staffing, is physical layout.

In Powhatan, the county records room, where vital documents including deeds, wills, and plats are kept, is accessed via a single hallway that passes in front of the service desk and can be monitored by staffers performing other tasks.

In Goochland, the Clerk’s Office is on two levels, with the records room on the ground floor near a parking lot. While it is monitored by cameras, a staffer must be in or near the record room during office hours to ensure that documents are not removed or damaged. Currently, staffers performing other duties on the lower level are available to assist those seeking access to the records room.

In Goochland, as in Powhatan, deputy clerks specialize in different areas, but the entire staff is cross trained, so everyone, including the Clerk, can pitch in to help people when thing get busy.

Dobbins explained that a knowledgeable and experienced Clerk is needed to ensure that the duties of the office, as decreed by the Code of Virginia, are properly carried out. She said that the Clerk cannot forward the agenda of any particular group.

Flannagan seems to believe that the Clerk’s function is to simply “manage” the staff as though it were a fast food franchise.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Dobbins, the Powhatan Clerk, told GOMM, the Clerk is a working administrator who must be very familiar with each of her duties as specified by the Code of Virginia. She said that the Clerk is accountable for all errors committed by the staff.

The Clerk is the probate judge for the county; issues marriage licenses; certifies people to perform marriages; issues concealed carry permits; and records deeds, to enumerate a few of her responsibilities.

Circuit Court is not a party room. It is a serious place where serious business is conducted.

Flannagan said that if elected he “would make sure that everyone gets a fair shake in court,” which further illustrates his ignorance of the Clerk’s responsibilities.

The Circuit Court Judge, not the Clerk, rules the courtroom and has final say on everything, down to thermostat settings. The Clerk is responsible for administration of court records, preparation of orders on the instruction of the judge, and swearing in jurors.

Digitization of Goochland’s records is an ongoing process, funded by grant money. It is expensive, cumbersome, and time consuming. One does not wave a magic wand at the records room and chant “digitize thyself” to get the job done, as Flannagan seems to believe.

Flannagan compares his inexperience to that of the supervisors who took office four years ago.

That’s comparing apples to antelopes. The supervisors operate as a board of directors that sets policy for the county. They had, in place, a competent chief executive officer-the county administrator—to tend to the nuts and bolts of county operations. The supervisors are also advised on what they can and cannot do by the county attorney, whose salary combined with that of the county administrator, probably equals or exceeds the entire Clerk’s office budget.

Flannagan, who seems to be unemployed, said he wanted to “help out the county” by running for Clerk. Seems like he’d be helping out himself collecting a handsome salary--$106,000 plus benefits -- while trying to figure out how to be clerk.

When people deal with the Clerk of the Court, they want courteous, competent service. They do not care who the Clerk’s spouse is. Please take the time to vote for Dale Agnew’s legitimate competence and relevant experience. Don’t be taken in by the hysterics of the haters.

This is the entrance to the Powhatan Clerk's Office

The Powhatan Records Room access can be monitored from the service counter in the Clerk's Office.

This is one of two exits from the Goochland records room.

The Goochland Court of Clerk is located on two different floors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October Board highlights

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors began its October 6 meeting by approving a resolution in support of domestic violence awareness month. Ending domestic violence, said the resolution, requires active collaboration among the Goochland Free clinic and Family services; Goochland Social Services; the Goochland Sheriff’s Office; Goochland Victim Witness Assistance Program; the Goochland Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; the 16 District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court unit; and other area partners. Sally Graham, Executive Director of GFFS introduced its new domestic violence coordinator. Graham said that the new program expected to serve approximately 38 clients in its first year and had already interacted with 40 people. May domestic violence soon be just a horrible memory.

Sheriff James L. Agnew explained that the hand guns used by county deputies are nearing the end of their useful life. He outlined a plan to replace them with Sig Saur P320 weapons. The Sig Saurs said Agnew, are easier to clean, have grips that can be changed out to accommodate different sized hands, and the ammunition is easier to obtain. The costs for the upgrade is approximately $24,000, which will be paid for by drug asset forfeiture funds at no cost to the taxpayers.

The 2015 Goochland Observer, which is essentially the county’s annual report to its shareholders—citizens--is available on the county website Please take a few minutes to read this.

Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay said that new building codes require smoke alarms inside bedrooms. As many of the materials used to build and furnish homes are now essentially “solidified gasoline” early warning of fires is crucial to survival. MacKay said that most fire fatalities occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Marshall Wynn of VDOT said that the River Road bridge over Tuckahoe Creek is expected to reopen around October 23. There may be some periods of single lane access as the finishing work is completed.

A preview of the recently completed Parks and Recreation Master Plan was presented by Derek Stamey, Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management. The board voted to place it on the agenda for its November 4 meeting.(NOTE, DUE OT ELECTON DAY, THE SUPERVISORS WILL MEET ON A WEDNESDAY IN NOVEMBER) Stamey reported that attendance at programs rose 32 percent in the last year.

Full implementation of the plan, which includes creation of new facilities including dog parks, is estimated to cost $1,790.00 over five years. This total includes $575,000 already funded in the Capital Improvement Plan.

Goochland’s school enrollment grew beyond projections, especially at Randolph Elementary School. The Supervisors approved a request from the School division for 181,600 from accumulated cash proffer funds to cover the cost of acquiring a parcel of land adjacent to RES to accommodate a mobile classroom and additional parking. The mobile classroom is being leased from Louisa County. The expense of two additional teachers was absorbed by the school division through use of additional non-county budget supplements. (See page 94 of board packet for details.)

The Board set public hearings on November 4 for proposed changes to the land use application deadlines, and a leash law for animals on public property other than service dogs and those engaged in hunting and obedience trials under the control of their owners.

A closed session for the purposes of conferring with counsel (Norman Sales, county attorney) about probably litigation regarding zoning enforcement was convened by the supervisors at the end of the afternoon meeting.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hard vote

The Goochland Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a conditional use permit to allow the construction of a 199 foot communications tower on the site of the new Company 6 Fire-Rescue Station in Hadensville at its October 6 meeting. The tower will be roughly opposite the entrance to the Royal Virginia Golf Course and way too close for comfort for nearby homeowners who live in its shadow.

The approved CUP contains a provision requiring a public hearing before leasing space on the tower for purposes other than public safety communications. The county would receive any fees generated by such a co-location.

Although the matter was on the September Board agenda, the vote was deferred for 30 days to allow the county to reevaluate the situation. The tower is the last piece in a multi-million dollar upgrade to the county’s public safety communications system, which is required by an unfunded federal mandate.

One of the many bitter lessons of 9/11 was that disaster scenes were all too often “Towers of Babel” as first responders could not communicate with each other, with deadly consequences. In Goochland, deputies and fire-rescue responders are far too familiar with radio dead spots all around the county.

Goochland has been working on to update its public safety communication system for nearly a decade. In addition to new equipment using frequencies that can “talk” to other agencies and fill signal gaps, the system requires new communications towers. These have already been approved and sited throughout the county in accordance with the overall plan.

Jennifer and Michael Mazza, who live very close to the Hadensville tower, contended that the county did a poor job of revealing the height and location of the tower. While they understand and support the need for emergency communication, the adamantly oppose use of the tower for cell phones, citing health concerns.

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, supported the deferral. However, a review of the communications plan yielded no other options for the tower site. Moving the tower would delay implementation of the plan for many months and void guarantee provisions in the county’s contract with Motorola.

Changing the appearance of the tower from a metal monopole to a faux tree or flag pole design would drastically increase the cost and not support the necessary equipment.

Jennifer Mazza was not pleased by the county’s response and took the Board to task, contending it was not living up to its promises of transparency and accountability.

“I thought I had a neighbor looking out for me,” she told the Board. “But I was wrong. Six children( who live in homes near the tower site) should not have to grow up living under a tower. Making something right is being accountable, regardless of the cost. It will be a long time before I trust another politician.”

County administrator Rebecca Dickson said that the person who sold the land to the county for the new Company 6 station knew that there would be a high tower on that property for about nine years. She also said that, at this time, no cell provider has expressed interest in locating on the Hadensville tower.

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, which includes Hadensville, said that she knows some people are unhappy with this decision. She said that the county looked hard for an alternative location, but the communication system serves the entire county, which will benefit from the upgrade.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr,. District 2, said that the tower near Central High School is also in someone’s backyard and is a lattice, rather than monopole tower. Others are located at Creekmore, a subdivision next to Richmond Country Club, and Company 4. As he has lead the efforts to expand Broadband coverage, Alvarez said he could not vote against this tower. He contended that property values are not negatively affected by the proximity of cell towers, citing Rivergate, an enclave of expensive homes just south of West Creek, as an example. Alvarez said that he grew up under the 500 foot WTVR tower in Richmond.

Making hard choices is part of the duty of elected officials.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cyber Security Presentation in Goochland

Robin Hillman asked GOMM to pass along this notice.

Greetings everyone,

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. Goochland's Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) has invited guest speaker, Dr. Gurpreet Dhillon with VCU to speak at their meeting on this topic. The meeting is open to the public. Citizens, county agencies and local businesses are all invited. Please RSVP your attendance to Robin Hillman, LEPC Chair, at

Guest Speaker: Dr. Gurpreet Dhillon

Dr. Gurpreet Dhillon is Professor of Information Security at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA and a Guest Professor at ISEG, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal. He has a PhD in Information Systems from the London School of Economics, UK. He has authored thirteen books including Principles of Information Systems Security: text and cases (John Wiley, 2007) and over 150 research papers. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Information System Security. His research has also been featured in various academic and commercial publications and his expert comments have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, Business Week, NBC News, NPR, among others.

Presentation Description: Cyber Security

Over the past few years, cyber attacks have been on an increase. However, organizations seem to be underprepared. Several questions need addressing:
1) understand where the attacks are coming from
2) assess what the impact of the attacks are
3) how the attacks have are conducted
4) when would the next attack be
In this presentation, these questions are addressed in a succinct manner. Key challenges and ways and means to overcome the barriers for successful mitigation of attacks are addressed.

Meeting Date and Time: October 21 at 3:30 PM

Meeting Location: Board Meeting Room 250 in the County Administration Building. Address is 1800 Sandy Hook Road, Goochland, VA 23063

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Biosolids part next

The comment period for the permits to land apply biosolids in Goochland runs from October 9 to November 9. Please see for details. (For additional resources please visit Goochlanders Against Sludge on Facebook.)

Melissa Hipolit of WTVR minced no words when reporting about a sludge laden dump truck overturning on Maidens Road last week. She labeled the substance that spewed out of the truck as “human waste”. The truck was headed for a storage facility south of the James, its load secured only by a tarp.

The county has no power to stop land application of human waste, or industrial residue, which seems to be the by products from processing chicken and pork and paper mill gunk. At the October 6 Board of Supervisors’ meeting, a detailed request for a study was discussed. This will likely receive the highest priority in Goochland’s Legislative Agenda, which informs our delegation to the Virginia General Assembly in their assessment of issues.

At the same time that the biosolids permits are pretty much considered a done deal, the state is implementing storm water management regulations to mitigate water pollution. This means that anyone who disturbs more than one acre of land must install some sort of mechanism to prevent runoff, which must be designed and installed according to detailed regualtions. Yet, the same Department of Envrionmental Quality and Water Control Board are giving the green light to dumping truckloads of biosolids on fields. While biosolids applications are also supposedly governed by detailed regulations, these are too many questions about air, water, and soil pollution for comfort.

Please see the board packet for the complete study resolution and DEQ requests.

The study request includes long term effects of biosolids and industrial residuals on health including its impact on all water sources. It asks for analysis of pathogens, heavy metals, personal care products residue, pharmaceuticals, prions, and other pollutants that might be present.

Existing testing looks only at heavy metals, nutrients—especially nitrogen and phosphorous—as the substance leaves the originating facility.
Nutrient management plans are part of the application regulations. Ideally, the amount of biosolids applied to a particular parcel of land is just enough to ensure optimal supply of nitrogen and phosphorous for a particular crop, including pasture and timber.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that the community meeting held on September 21 yielded a great deal of useful information on the subject. An item differentiating between classes of sludge was also added to the study request. Class A sludge can be well-cooked like the substance sold in garden centers. Class B is less processed and its degrading is “finished in the field” during the 30 days after land application when livestock must be kept off fields.

The requested study would be ongoing over several years. It also requests a cost analysis of requiring Class B producers to upgrade to Class A. Currently, only biosolids produced in Virginia must report testing results. The study request asks that test results be reported regardless of the place of origin. Some sludge being applied here originates in Maryland or D.C.

Disclosure of the sites of application of biosolids, in the request, would be similar to those required concerning lead paint.
Keep in mind that this is a request and the General Assembly could, as it has done in past years, fail to take any action.

Land application of biosolids is not a new practice in Goochland. It has been going on for decades. At the community meeting, Owen Lanier, who applies a good deal of the biosolids in Goochland, contended that he knows of no ill effects of the practice.

During citizen comment at the start of the evening session, Valeria Turner of Crozier read from a Richmond newspaper article from 1984 that contended that state monitoring of sewage sludge and hauling is largely self-policed. The story advocated requiring sludge haulers to transport the substance only in trucks with water tight metal tops instead of tarps—just like the one that spilled on Maidens Road last week.
“And we’re still dealing with this,” said Turner.

The county is resisting suggestions to do testing and compile a baseline for future reference contending it would be a futile--and expensive—gesture because DEQ would ignore the results.

Farmers who use biosolids believe that it is a cost-effective way to improve the soil.

The fact is, we just do not know enough about the stuff to make a good judgment one way or the other. The truth probably lies somewhere between benign and poison. Impartial data on the matter is long overdue.