Friday, March 13, 2015


At its March 3 meeting, the Goochland Board of Supervisors took a few minutes to celebrate the recent announcement that the county received a AAA bond rating from New York based Standard and Poor's. The magnitude of this accomplishment, a bit more than three years after the former county treasurer was marched off to prison after being  convicted of embezzling public funds, is astonishing.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson thanked Kevin Rotty, of Public Financial Management,the county's financial advisor, for his help and encouragement during the complicated application process for the credit rating. Rotty reported that Goochland's securing a AAA credit rating is indeed a rare accomplishment for a county with a population under 60,000. (Goochland's population is approximately 21,000). 

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, presented commemorative glass plaques to  Rotty; John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Financial Affairs; comptroller Barbara Horlacher; Jon Worley who produced the wonderful video included in the presentation (available for viewing on the county website; and District  5 Supervisor Ken Peterson.

The  driving force behind the pursuit of the bond rating, said Peterson was Dickson.

The benefit for the citizens going forward is that Goochland has been vetted by a respected impartial agency and found to be fiscally responsible and well-managed. In addition to reducing the cost of the county's borrowing going forward, by giving it direct access to capital markets, it announces that Goochland County has its fiscal ducks in a row.

Peterson contended that the rating gives citizens " a transparent metric to monitor the county's financial health." He also thanked Rotty for his contributions to turning the county around. "In a previous life, Kevin must have been a baseball batting coach because he helped Goochland County hit a couple of home runs." Rotty was also instrumental in the remedial restructuring of the TCSD debt.

Rotty explained that the AAA bond rating puts Goochland "in select company" as one of eleven jurisdictions in Virginia--and the smallest, at aproximately 21,400, population-wise--to obtain this designation. He said that winning the rating on the first attempt is the result of years of dedicated planning and financial discipline. Rotty said that Goochland was judged to be "very strong" in six of the seven rating categories, with only the TCSD debt issues casting a shadow on the county's fiscal picture.

The video, said Rotty, told the raters who Goochland County is.  The Standard and Poor's folk, however, were curious as to how Goochland managed to accomplish so many things in such a short time and retain the lowest tax rate--53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation--in the region. Peterson, reported Rotty, educated Standard and Poor's about " The Goochland way".

Dickson attributed the success of the rating quest to participation by virtually the entire county staff, board of supervisors and others. "It really does take a village," and thanked all everyone involved for doing their job well.

A new feature has been added to the software used for Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission packets. It allows comments to be made online regarding a particular item. Supervisors and commissioners will be able to view all the comments. Lascolette said this is yet another way to gather citizen input and improve government transparency.

Senior Planner Jo Ann Hunter presented the draft of the 2035 comprehensive land use plan to the board. It is available on the county website. A series of meetings will be held in April to gather citizen feedback. Comments may also be made by telephone, or email.

Lascolette said she was "blown away" by the revised plan, which is intended to be easier to read and understand. Please take a look at this and communicate you thoughts about it to county officials. This is the time to comment on land use, not when there is a bulldozer on that vacant land on the corner!!!

Representatives of Kimley-Horn, a transportation consulting firm retained by VDOT--the state agency that seems to be trying to change its motto from Oops!--presented their initial recommendations to improve traffic flow in the Broad Street/Ashland Road corridor. This includes additional traffic signals; suggestions for new roads; and some round abouts on Ashland Road. As with all road projects, availability of money to pay for the improvements is a huge factor.

The Board next meets for a public hearing on the FY 2016 budget on April 13.

After all of the  hard work on strategic plans, bond ratings and so forth, the Supervisors contend that they are still focused on supporting core services. These are: law enforcement, fire-rescue and education. The proposed 2016 budget includes funding for one, rather than the two deputies that seemed to be agreed upon last year.

In the presentation of the 2016 budget, made by Wack on February 23 (please listen to the live stream, it was the last item on the agenda) he contended that the budget supports "public safety,"  lumping fire-rescue and law enforcement together and never providing the reasoning behind funding only one new deputy. If there is a good reason, citizens need to know what it is.

Additional fire-rescue employees, funded to a  great extent by the cost recovery program--charging health  insurance for hospital transport-- put in place a while back, are different from deputies. Fire-rescue employees are trained and certified before they are hired. Deputies must go through a training academy and local acclimatization before being "turned loose" to patrol solo, a process which takes nearly a year to complete.

That means that a deputy hired on July 1, 2015, likely will not be on the road before Spring, 2016. By that time, new construction on Broad Street in Henrico  will be dumping increased traffic volume on Goochland Roads. 

Failure to fund a second deputy seems like a penny wise and pound foolish approach to delivering core services. It will be interesting to see if anyone bothers to comment on,or even notice, this during town hall meetings or the public hearing on the budget. 

Is hiding something in plain sight the same as transparency? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tacos to go coming to Centerville

At its March 3, 2015 meeting, after a lengthy deferral, the Goochland Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a conditional use permit that will allow construction of a Taco Bell restaurant on Broad Street Road in Centerville just west of McDonald’s.

The CUP was required for the drive though aspect of the fast food outlet.
Although the county planning commission recommended approval of the CUP last fall, the supervisors declined to hear the proposal until it had received a certificate of approval from the county’s Design Review Committee. The COA indicates compliance with all of the Centerville overlay district standards, which include acceptable building materials, setbacks, lighting, and landscaping.

The final submission approved by the supervisors represents a significant improvement over the initial proposal. Accepted plans include more stone and less metal on the building exterior and additional landscaping.

The restaurant is expected to create between 25 and 30 new jobs. It will be allowed to be open around the clock. However, at least at the outset, it seems unlikely that there will be sufficient business to justify the expense of twenty four hour staffing.

Access to the Taco Bell parking lot will be from LaBlayre Way. One free standing sign, expected to be similar in design to that of McDonald’s, will be part of the construction.

Only one person commented during the public hearing. A resident of the Parke at Saddle Creek, which is located on the east side of Manakin Road south of Broad Street Road in the Centerville Village, who said she spoke on behalf of her subdivision, opposed the application.
She raised the usual objections of traffic, crime, noise, and attracting interstate travelers. Claiming that she and her neighbors love the beauty and small town “vibe” of Centerville—essentially an aging cinderblock strip mall between Ashland and Manakin Roads—and rural lifestyle they found there. (Rural, on a fraction of an acre with municipal water, sewer, and high speed internet?)

They do not want Broad Street Road to become a fast food alley, or attract business from Interstate 64. One of the reasons that businesses locate in Centerville is to take advantage of the interchange. Indeed, it seems quite possible that one of their reasons that people buy homes in the Centerville Village is its easy access to I64.

The problem is, as Bob Minnick pointed out in his fall town meeting, it’s not like the county had a choice between a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Taco Bell. Development is market driven and funded by private dollars. If the residents of the Parke at Saddle Creek would like to invest their money in an “upscale” business of their liking, landowners and the county would be happy to work with them.

Interestingly, home owners in The Parke at Centerville, a subdivision much closer to the site of the proposed Taco Bell—the McDonald’s must be clearly visible to some of the homes there-raised no objections.

Had the new residents bothered to do their homework, they would have learned that at least two of the out parcels on the Broad View Shopping Center were designated for fast food use years ago. It’s hard to understand why people who spend hours on the internet researching cars before making a purchase seem to be buying homes based on impulse. They accept claims made by realtors, who may not live in Goochland, without question, and whine when they discover that reality does not match the sales pitch.

It’s too bad that the representative of the Parke at Saddle Creek stormed out in an embarrassingly adolescent manner after the Taco Bell vote. She missed the presentation on the arterial access management plan, which could have a significant impact on traffic in the Centerville Village.

Attracting substantial investment to the Centerville Village has been challenging for years. A well-crafted mixed use zoning ordinance, which the Planning Commission is expected to discuss at a workshop in April, could help this area lure the kind of distinctive development that everyone wants.