Thursday, February 26, 2015

Slogging through February

Goochland’s supervisors held a marathon workshop session on February 23. Matters originally scheduled for a snowed out session on February 17 were added to the agenda.

Debbie Byrd, the county’s civil and environmental engineer, presented an update on the options for dealing with the unfunded state mandate to regulate storm water. The bottom line seems to be that county oversight of the stringent new regulations will provide better customer service to landowners and developers. Fees charged will not offset the entire cost of implementation, however.

While no one is in favor of polluted water, the motive for imposing these regulations is murky at best. It seems like the federal government is trying to wrest control of all surface water in the country. The new storm water rules seek to create more “best management practices” AKA retention ponds, that will need oversight.

There seems to be a dearth of hard science connecting water pollution to run off, yet pretty much every time the permeability of a patch of ground is changed, the new regulations kick in. Of course, that means that people must be hired to issue permits and perform inspections, all of which makes any kind of development more expensive.

The supervisors have not yet decided if they will approve county oversight of this program, or let the state’s Department of Environmental Quality handle it.

Keith Burgess of the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District explained that his agency administers grant money to help fence livestock out of streams to improve water quality. It also provides many “non-traditional services” that help to preserve the rural character of the county.

Burgess said that the MSWCD helps to educate new comers to Goochland about rural living. As forest lands convert to farmland, the MSWCD helps to ensure that proper erosion and sediment controls and other sound land use practices are implemented. It works with newcomers to Goochland starting smaller agricultural operations. These are a different customer, Burgess contended, who did not grow up with “the common sense land use knowledge” of long time farmers and benefit from MSWCD guidance.

Burgess also said that the MSWCD is no longer in the equipment rental business. His agency has been swamped with applications for grant money and technical assistance.

Principal planner Jo Ann Hunter shared proposed changes to the county’s comprehensive land use plan with the supervisors. The comp plan, explained Hunter, is a policy document. Although it has no “enforcement teeth,” once the 2035 comp plan has been approved by the supervisors, county zoning and other land use ordinances will be revised to support its objectives, something that is currently lacking.

District meetings are scheduled for April to discuss the proposed changes and gather community feedback. Hunter said that staff will be happy to make a comp plan presentation to any interested group or neighborhood.

Planning Commission Chair Joe Andrews, District 4, commended Hunter, GIS Analyst Jon Worley and the Planning Staff for their work on the 2025 comp plan.

The draft 2035 comp plan will soon be posted on the county website Questions and comments are welcome. After adoption, the 2035 Comp Plan will be available in a user friendly spiral bound book. This should be distributed to all realtors who sell property in Goochland as well as prospective homeowners.

An annual event that used to be as pleasant as getting a root canal without anesthesia—presentation of the proposed school budget to the supervisors—has instead become a cordial exchange of information and comment.

Delivered on time and balanced with the funds expected to be made available by the county, the proposed school budget rose 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year. School Superintendent Dr. James Lane also discussed unfunded priority items. (See the meeting packet, under the supervisors’ tab on the county website for details.)

Lane declared that the Goochland schools provide and excellent value for taxpayers.

Before getting down to the numbers, a list of the impressive accomplishments of Goochland schools was presented. It’s hard to believe that this is the same school division that, according to the former superintendent, was headed into a “death spiral” without a massive tax increase and infusion of funds.
The open dialog and collaboration between the supervisors and school board is good for everyone involved. Excellent schools that prepare all students to participate in the American Dream are a crucial component of a vibrant community.
An executive summary of the school budget is also part of the February 23 board packet and paints a clear picture of the way that local education funds are used.

Todd Kilduff, Director of the Public Utilities Department made his budget presentation. Perhaps the most important accomplishment of this department in the past year was completion of the utilities’ master plan. At last, the county has a clear picture of where utility lines—public water and sewer—are; how existing infrastructure can be put to its optimal use; and cost estimates for needed improvements and ongoing maintenance.

Kilduff said the study found that the Centerville water tank has been underused and is able to handle pressure needs to Patterson Avenue. He also said that the West Creek water tank will be decommissioned.
He recommended a 2.5 percent increase in utility rates to reduce the general fund utility subsidy and pay for necessary capital improvements. Kilduff said that the ad valorem tax levied on the Tuckahoe Creek Service District is expected to remain at the current 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the “next several years.” This is a sore subject for TCSD homeowners and will undoubtedly be raised at town hall meetings in March.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson presented her proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1. (This is available in its entirety on the county website. It is a beautifully crafted document containing a great deal of interesting information about the county and well a perusal.)

The proposed budget is based on retention of the current (53 cent per $100 of assessed valuation) tax rate. The budget will be discussed at the upcoming town hall meetings. Citizen feedback could result in adjustments. A public hearing will be held on the FY2016 county budget in April, after which the supervisors will vote to set tax rates for calendar year 2015. First half taxes are due on June 5.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Venture Forum Summit Comes to West Creek

Successful businesses create jobs and enrich communities. They do not just happen. Sometimes, an entrepreneur has a great idea for a business, but cannot obtain the seed money to transform that notion into reality.

Meanwhile, investors and others seeking a return on their money want to buy into “the next big thing,” and are looking for promising enterprises.
On April 2, 2015, the Virginia Venture Summit, sponsored by Venture Forum RVA will return to the Capital One West Creek Town Center in Goochland. This event provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs, innovators, and business people of all types, venture capitalists, and “angels” to come together for mutual benefit.

Presentation categories include: invention/Innovation (promising concept-stage ventures, including university tech transfers); start up; and growth. A selection committee will make the final choice of presenters. The deadline for consideration is Friday, February 27. See for complete information.

The Goochland Economic Development Authority is a sponsor of this event.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Putting the pieces together

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors spent the first two years of its current term in office putting out fires large and small. Some, we may never learn about.

Last year, after many months of work and public discussion, the supervisors approved a strategic plan that sets goals and objectives for local government. This plan is not “written in stone” but defines standards of excellence that were sorely lacking in the previous regime.

Unlike many “plans” adopted in the past that tended to be filed away and forgotten this strategic plan is at the heart of county operations. Each item in the supervisors’ monthly agenda packet indicates which strategic goal it supports.

The strategic plan was just the beginning. Last year, work on a badly needed utilities master plan started. That report was delivered to the supervisors last month. A team of highly skilled—wonky in a very good way—civil engineers worked closely with the county utility department to finally, after about ten years, accurately map the Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD) infrastructure and offer options for expanding public water and sewer in Courthouse Village.

Mitigation measures for problems plaguing current TCSD customers, especially “smelly water,” were presented. Simply put, there’s a lot of water in the TCSD pipes and not a lot of users, so the water gets stale. The water in the tower that looms over Centerville—sometimes referred to as “the giant plunger in the sky—also sits there for a long time. In warm weather, water in the tank separates into layers based on temperature so some water stays there even longer.

To fix this, the consultants offered remedies that can be applied quickly and for a relatively modest cost. Rerouting the path that water takes through some of the lines and adding a “mixer” to the water tank will be a good start. The 113 page report goes into great detail about county utilities. The good news is that, with the exception of the potential for increased capacity in Courthouse Village, most of Goochland will continue to use well and septic for the foreseeable future.

Goochland’s comprehensive land use plan (comp plan) is up for its five year review. The Planning Commissioners have been working with staff to simplify and streamline this document, which is intended to serve as a guide for land use decisions. Comp plans, mandated by the state for the last few decades, lock at conditions 20 years out.

The proposed comp plan provides a lot of good information about the county in an accessible format easily understood by citizen and developer alike.
Principal planner Jo Ann Hunter and geographic information systems analyst Jonathan Worley have collaborated on a collection of excellent charts and maps that show current and intended land use as well as existing and future roads.

Using GIS information, Worley has created easy to understand graphics portraying land use statistics. Perhaps the most comforting one is a pie chart that shows the county as mostly rural, with just ten percent developed.

The most significant proposed change to the comp plan is designating only Centerville, Manakin, Courthouse, and Oilville as villages. Other areas previously called villages including Crozier, Hadensville, Sandy Hook, and Fife will be considered crossroads. As the potential for robust development in these areas with no public utilities is slight, categorizing them as villages seemed inappropriate.

New items in the proposed 2035 comp plan deal with economic development; communications; and rural preservation. It also references the utility master plan as an indicator of appropriate locations for certain kinds of growth. A mixed use zoning classification that includes high density residential and commercial uses on the same parcel is expected to be included as s land use option, probably only in Centerville.

Once the 2035 comp plan is adopted, county zoning ordinances will be changed to support it. There will be ample opportunity for citizen input before the 2035 comp plan is adopted by the supervisors probably early next summer. In addition to public hearings before the planning commission and Board, community meetings will be held around the county in April.

Even though the best laid plans have a way of going awry, they are preferable to lurching from crisis to crisis.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

To serve and protect

During his budget presentation to the supervisors on February 3 Goochland Sheriff Jim Agnew outlined the accomplishments of his agency for the past year. Law enforcement is a lot more complicated than writing tickets. Goochland deputies patrol 180 square miles for 168 hours a week.

(The presentation is available on the Livestream area of the county website under the 3 p.m. session for February 3. Agnew’s talk begins about 1:55 into the meeting.)

Agnew announced that Black, the county’s canine deputy, will soon retire. On the job since late 2007, Black, said Agnew is getting old. Purchased with seized drug asset forfeiture funds, Black is a “combo” dog able to detect drugs, track, and, if all else fails, bite.

Black’s successor, a dog named Chase, is waiting in the wings. Deputy Greg Bock, who has handled Black, will work with Chase in North Carolina this summer to make sure that the new dog is appropriate for work in Goochland. He too will be funded by seized drug asset forfeitures.

While canine deputies are “old school,” Goochland law enforcement also uses high tech methods to catch the bad guys. Criminal activity is conducted by computer and cell phone. Agnew said that his department recently purchased new and updated devices able to extract electronic evidence that will stand up in court. The machines and training of personnel to operate them was funded by money distributed by the state attorney general that was part of a pharmaceutical settlement. Agnew contended that this equipment is a useful tool and that no taxpayer dollars were used to pay for it.

Perhaps the most heart wrenching issues calls handled by our deputies are mental health related. They are often called upon to intervene when troubled souls become a danger to themselves and others.

Such an incident occurred last August, just a few days after the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. A family called 911 to report that their son had a knife and threatened to kill anyone who came near him. Deputies dispatched to the scene kept their distance as the man became more distraught. Deputy Matt Carrier, who had completed crisis intervention training, was able to “talk the man down” and get him to give up his knife so he could be taken for mental health evaluation and get the help he needed. The best part was that no one got hurt.

Agnew, who has been reappointed to the Governor’s mental health task force, declared that crisis intervention training is a very important skill. He wants to have all Goochland deputies trained in these techniques. “The system is still broken,” Agnew said of mental health crisis response. “But we try to do the best we can for people with mental health issues.”

A recent agreement with the West Creek Emergency Center allows people with non-violent mental health problems to be evaluated there in a more therapeutic environment to ensure that the incident was not the result of a medical condition.

Seizing property to satisfy unpaid debts is another duty of the sheriff’s office. Agnew said that his staff worked with Goochland Treasurer Pamela Johnson to seize equipment of a company that owed more than $130,000 in back taxes.

Then, there are the routine duties including helping distressed motorists.

Goochland deputies are there to protect and serve, not write traffic tickets to generate revenue, said Agnew. While calls for service have declined about two percent in 2014, responding to those incidents will probably take longer going forward. If the General Assembly approves wider collection of DNA samples, processing arrests will become more complicated. Agnew believes this is a positive change and will help solve more crimes.

Agnew’s budget request for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1, includes two additional deputies and one more dispatcher.
He also asked for 13 vehicles, two new, and the remainder replacements for a cost of approximately $411,000. The consequences of suspending the vehicle replacement schedule during the economic downturn are starting to be felt. Agnew said that, although well maintained, his office is using many high mileage vehicles—one with 178,338 on the odometer—and they do not last forever.

Agnew said that he will not “put anyone in vehicles not in good condition.”

This is where the supervisors will have to decide, almost literally, where the rubber meets the road. Our deputies do a good job; they must have safe, reliable vehicles.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Goochland receives AAA Standard & Poor’s bond rating

The press release below details the latest accomplishment of Goochland County government; there will be more.
Please visit the county website to view the wonderful video about Goochland that was included in the material submitted to Standard & Poor’s.

Susan F. Lascolette, Chair, District 1
Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2
Ned S. Creasey, District 3
Robert H. Minnick, Vice-Chair, District 4
Ken C. Peterson, District 5

Goochland County Becomes Only Small County in Virginia with AAA Rating
Goochland County – On Friday, February 6, 2015, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services (S&P) assigned the highest credit rating possible of AAA to Goochland County. In receiving the AAA rating in its first-ever attempt, Goochland also becomes the only small county in Virginia to be rated AAA by S&P, as currently no other county with a population under 60,000 is designated AAA. By comparison, Goochland County’s current population is estimated at 21,400.
Ken Peterson, Goochland County Board of Supervisors, Becky Dickson, County Administrator and John Wack, Deputy County Administrator, along with Kevin Rotty of PFM, the County’s financial advisor, traveled to Wall Street on January 12th to tell Goochland County’s story. During a three hour due diligence session with S&P, county officials highlighted Goochland’s strengths in management and leadership, the local economy, planned growth, strategic planning, and most importantly in financial management, including strength in the areas of budgetary performance and financial flexibility and liquidity.
Ken Peterson, Board of Supervisors representative from District 5, was pleased with the outcome: "We are thrilled that S&P has awarded its highest rating to Goochland County. The S&P AAA credit rating serves as an affirmation and validation of the County's financial health. Goochland will benefit from this rating in many ways, including an enhanced ability to attract and retain businesses, improved access to the capital markets on very favorable terms, and it will provide a transparent metric for citizens to track the financial health of their County.” County Administrator Rebecca Dickson stated: “The citizens of Goochland are fortunate to have a financially conservative Board of Supervisors that serves as exceptional stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, not only strengthening the county’s financial policies over the last two years but strictly adhering to those policies. In addition, the Board is very proactive, building up reserves to provide budget flexibility for the future and taking a cautious approach to recurring spending commitments. Goochland County has earned this outstanding rating,” John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Financial Services, added: “This top rating is the culmination of over five years of steady progress in prudent financial management.”
S&P concludes its assessment as follows: “The stable outlook reflects our view of the county’s very strong management conditions that, in our view, have contributed to its very strong financial position and consistently strong financial performance. For these reasons, we do not expect to change the rating within the two-year outlook horizon.”
1800 Sandy Hook Road
P. O. Box 10, Goochland, VA 23063
(804) 556-5800 ● (804) 556-4617 Fax ● (TDD 711 (Virginia Relay))

Thursday, February 5, 2015


The February 3 meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors lacked the drama that extended January public hearings into the wee hours of the next day. Most of the day—the supervisors started in the morning—was taken up with budget presentations and other housekeeping matters.

A scheduled public hearing on a conditional use permit application to allow construction of a 199 foot cell tower on land near Millers Lane was cancelled when the applicant, Pegasus Tower, withdrew its application.

Following the announcement of the withdrawal at the afternoon session, County Attorney Norman Sales explained that the applicant may refile for the CUP, starting the at any time. Had the supervisors held the hearing and voted to deny the CUP, Pegasus would have had to wait 12 months before trying again.

Speakers during the citizen comments in the afternoon and evening sessions implored the supervisors to find a way to bring some sort of affordable high speed internet capacity throughout the county.

A Mr. O’Hare contended that, without broadband access, Crozier is an “economic desert.” Indeed, almost every building there seems to be vacant and for sale. O’Hare explained that when a business that had been operating in Crozier was driven out in search of better intent access, it took five high paying jobs with it. On top of all that, O’Hare said that the assessed valuation on his property, which has been on the market for some time, rose a bit more than two percent.

Later in the meeting, Paul Drumwright, Senior Management and Project Analyst presented a broadband update. He reviewed presentations made at the January meeting by other entities engaged in trying to expand broadband in rural areas. (See the January board packet on the county website for details.)

In essence, Goochland is still searching for an effective and cost-effective way to deploy broadband throughout the county. Cost and regulations are the primary obstacles.

District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr., who chaired the Goochland High Speed Internet Committee (GHSIC) a few years ago, explained that there is a lot of fiber optic cable, including along Rt. 6 through Crozier, in the ground here. That cable operates a little like an interstate highway for through traffic. Construction of “on ramps” to access the fiber is essentially prohibited by cost and regulation.

The county continues to monitor all initiatives in this area, including use of “white space,” the frequencies between television channels, for broadband. Ideally, the county would like to encourage private companies to invest in connecting all of Goochland.

Drumwright reported that equipment on the new cell tower in Crozier is expected to be “live” in March. Work to put antennas on the tower on Triple Estates Lane near Randolph School is expected to begin next summer and be operational in about a year. Remember, this was the tower that was “urgently” needed almost two years ago.

Perhaps Goochland needs to adopt a new policy requiring cell towers to be up and running within a small time frame, weather permitting, after CUP approval or quickly removed at the expense of the tower owner.

The supervisors approved a resolution endorsing a certificate of need and construction of an outpatient surgery facility as part of the MEDARVA complex in the Notch opposite Wawa. This would be like the Stony Point Surgery Center.

Fire-rescue Chief Bill MacKay reported that a third 24/7/365 paid EMS crew will be in place in the next few weeks. Coverage at the other three county fire-rescue stations will depend on the availability of volunteer crews.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hadensville Company 6 fire-rescue station is scheduled for Saturday, February 21 at 2 p.m. The site is on the south side of Route 250 in Hadensville. Citizens are welcome to attend.

The first round of town hall meetings for 2015 will be held in March as follows: District 5, Wednesday, March 18, 7:00 p.m., Manakin Fire-Rescue Station(5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. informational session on Tuckahoe Creek Service District) • District 4, Thursday, March 19, 7:00 p.m., Grace Chinese Baptist Church (5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. informational session on Tuckahoe Creek Service District) • District 1, Wednesday, March 25, 7:00 p.m., Byrd Elementary School • Districts 2 & 3, Thursday, March 26, 7:00 p.m., Central High School Gymnasium.
A community meeting about the Broad Street and Ashland Road Corridor Transportation Plan will be held on March 11, 2015, 7:00 p.m. at the Centerville Fire-Rescue Station.

The committee for the future use of Central High School was appointed. County administrator Rebecca Dickson thanked Frances Anderson for helping to identify potential members and pulling the committee together. Those appointed are: members selected by the community: Ruth Johnson; Gloria Turner; William Henson; Virginia Robinson; Teresa Howell; Sekou Shabaka – NAACP; Calvin Hopkins – Rosenwald School (Non-Profit); alternates selected by the community: Kellen Jones; Dot Ruqus; Etta Brown; members selected by the County: Sally Graham - Goochland Free Clinic & Family Services; Debra MacKay – Community Member; Kimberly Jefferson – Goochland County Social Services; Derek Stamey – Goochland Parks, Recreation, and Facilities; Dr. James Lane – Goochland County Public Schools, Dr. Peter Gretz(as an alternate for Dr. Lane); Keisha Carroll – Goochland Recreation Advisory Commission (RAC); Bonnie Creasey – Goochland Chamber of Commerce ;Jennifer Layton – Community Member. Staff to the Committee: Rebecca Dickson – County Administrator; Paul Drumwright – Senior Management & Projects Analyst; Matthew Ryan – Economic Development Director; and John Wack – Deputy County Administrator.

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1 said the Central High School project is an excellent example of what makes Goochland a great place to live. She thanked everyone on the committee for their interest in the committee and said she “can’t wait to see” the results of this community collaboration.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ding dong

The Taco Bell restaurant, proposed for the Broad Street Road corridor just west of McDonald’s in Centerville, is a step closer to reality.
At a follow-up meeting of the county’s Design Review Committee on January 27, significant modifications to the initially submitted site and building plans were deemed to comply with overlay district standards.

The DRC is comprised of chair Paul Costello, Stu Doetzer, and Janice Brooks, who were appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors vote on a Conditional Use application, required for drive-through restaurants, could take place in March 3.

Modifications included more and larger bushes in the buffer around the site to improve screening; landscaped islands to break up parking; and changes to the building exterior. Stone accents will be used to relieve long side walls. Natural colored, rather than white, river rock will be placed around the base of the building, for visual appeal and to deter fires that caused by cigarettes being tossed onto mulch.

Perhaps the strongest point of contention—metal slats over lit purple bricks on a significant portion of the front of the building—was addressed to the satisfaction of the DRC. Instead, three metal slats expose a few courses of purple brick, which will be illuminated by a white light to subtlety suggest Taco Bell’s signature “purple glow.”

Centerville’s overlay design standards encourage use of earth tones to harmonize new construction. Modifying the color restrictions to a maximum percentage of the area of each side of a new building to display “branding” colors or patterns could be useful. This would be an objective standard, yet flexible enough to accommodate chain enterprises and avoid a bland, boring sameness in new construction. A hint of the “branding” color or pattern should be adequate for customer recognition.

Windows of the proposed Taco Bell will be tinted and have mullions, to give the building a more residential look and discourage obscuring them with promotional flyers. In response to Costello, Planner Jo Ann Hunter explained that county code limits covering of windows to 50 percent of the glass.

Costello said that the changes were good.

Doetzer, who brings expertise with landscaping and design matters to his seat on the DRC, recommended changes to some of the specified plant material. Stuart Little, representing Burger Busters, the Taco Bell franchisee, contended that the overlay specifications about the size of plant material is vague and confusing. He wondered if “three feet” refers to height, circumference, and size at planting or maturity, which could have a significant impact on cost.

The DRC suggested that the freestanding sign between Broad Street Road and the proposed building be mounted on a brick background similar to the McDonald’s sign on the adjacent parcel.

While the option of free standing signs does not fall under the purview of the DRC—they are permitted by code—they encourage visual clutter at eye level, which seems counter to the purpose of the overlay standards. Do passing motorists really need another sign to recognize a business close to the road in plain sight?

Proposed lighting meets the “dark sky” requirements; as Taco Bell plans to deploy less intense lighting fixtures than those used by McDonald’s, there could be a difference in the appearance of the illumination. Staff will address the issue.

Given the height and brightness of the lighting at Food Lion, which backlights the other properties on the north side of Broad Street Road, quibbling about the difference in lighting fixtures seems excessively punitive for new businesses.

Overall, the DRC did a good job of fairly enforcing the overlay standards. This is another example of the value of citizen engagement in local government.