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.

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