Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Getting noticed in a good way

The annoucement made on July 20 about the huge expansion of the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery into Goochland County's West Creek keeps on attracting positive attention.

Richmond Bizsense has written two very informative pieces on the news. Go to  to read them. Also, there was a blurb in USA Today this morning about it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Raising a cool one

On a sultry afternoon perfect for quaffing a cool beer, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliff announced that Richmond's Hardywood Park Craft Brewery will open a large facility in West Creek. The announcement was made at the Virginia Farm Bureau headquarters.

State financial incentives tied to a promise by Hardywood to use a certain amount of Virginia agriculture products in the manufacture of its brews helped seal the deal. (Visit for details and sketches of the brewery complex)

Secrecy shrouded the discussions at the state and local level. Goochland supervisors met in closed session several times at their monthly meetings this spring to discuss an unnamed economic development project . It was code named "project sheep" in emails about the final press release.

Hardywood will locate its new brewery complex on two parcels of land, about 35 acres, in West Creek adjacent to Farm Bureau head quarters on West Creek Parkway. The site will be used to brew, package, and distribute Hardywood's award winning craft beers. It will also have a tap room, extensive gardens, and an outdoor amphitheater. Initially, 56 new local jobs will be created.

"The concept is beautiful--very stunning," said Susan Lascolette, District 1, chair of the Goochland Board of Supervisors.

Hardywood pledged to use a certain amount of Virginia produced ingredients to obtain the state funding. This could be a boon to Goochland farmers who might decide to grow crops like hops and barley instead of the usual corn, wheat, and soybeans. No mention was made of the residue from the brewing process, but perhaps that could be spread on local fields instead of sewage and industrial sludge. That would fall right into the sustainable and local focus of Hardywood's philosophy.

The new brewery complex, expected to be in operation in about 18 months, according to Lascolette, will pay ad valorem taxes, connection, and usage fees to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. It will also use lots of water, which should help with the stale water issue.

Tax bills will be computed using the current assessed valuation. Personal property and machine and tools taxes will be rebated 100 percent for years one to four and 50 percent for the greater of either ten years, or until the amount of "forgiven" taxes reaches $1 million. Given the $28 million expected to be invested in the complex, and Hardywood's success, it will be paying full taxes sooner rather than later.

The Hardywood complex is the latest game changer for Goochland County. Lascolette observed that “Hardywood’s vision for its new brewing campus and distribution facility are perfectly aligned with Goochland’s commitment to attract and retain the best people and businesses while preserving our rural character.”


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Piecing the quilt

Pieces of the puzzle that is community gravitated towards each other at the July 7 meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors.

Agenda items highlighted people, institutions, and notions that, when working in harmony, 

One of the first orders of business was recognizing Joe Wadle, current commander of American Legion Post 215 on his retirement from that position. Wadle, a "retired" Marine--they're always Marines, just configured a little differently--served our country honorably while on active duty. Like many veterans, when Wadle became a private citizen, he enriched his community by volunteering his time and talents. As commander of Post 215, Wadle worked to bolster the dwindling membership. He reported that 34 local veterans have joined and the Post is stronger than ever.
Wadle, who moved to Goochland in 2007, was also instrumental in the creation of the Marine Junior ROTC corps at Goochland High School. For many years, parents who wanted to see such a program added to the GHS curriculum were told it could never happen. Apparently, Joe Wadle disagreed. He was the catalyst that brought all the disparate pieces of that puzzle together and turned "never happen" into "mission accomplished." 

A bit later in the meeting, Gary Rhodes, the president of Reynolds Community College gave his annual update to the supervisors. He thanked the board for appointing Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Lane to the Reynolds board. Rhodes said that Lane has added a "wealth of knowledge" about the use of technology in education to that group.

(Lane later commented that he too has learned much from his time on the Reynolds board and that the partnership between Reynolds and Goochland schools has provided opportunities for our students like a recent STEM cap that "makes a small county like ours so special." Lane lives in Goochland.)

Rhodes said that the goal of his institution is to triple the number of  credentials awarded by 2021. In addition to specific  training, Rhodes said that Reynolds also wants to ensure that its graduates have the necessary "soft" skills to succeed in the workplace.  These include a strong work ethic; communication skills; and understanding the need to show up for work on time.

Rhodes said that there are 36,000 job seekers in the Commonwealth and 52,000 job openings. He wants to make sure that those seeking work have all the skills needed to fill the openings. This is not only good for Virginia, but enables more people to determine their own course in life.

Laura Lafayette of the Richmond Board of Realtors discussed the results of a recent study about housing challenges in the region prepared for the Partnership for Housing Affordability. (The complete presentation may be viewed in the July 7 Board packet located on the county website                           

The notion of "affordable" housing conjures up images of crime ridden housing projects. Lafayette, however, used the term "cost burdened" to identify those who spend more than 30 percent  of household income on housing costs.

A new group increasingly falling into the cost burdened category is senior citizens living n fixed incomes. According to statistics in the presentation  73.1 percent of Goochland's population is not in the cost burdened category. 

Most of the suggested strategies to mitigate the housing burden issue apply to areas more urban than Goochland. Two that might apply here were easing regulation regarding "granny flats" to keep seniors near their families and creation of mixed use zoning.

The supervisors approved a very tenuous approach to mixed use, which might result in less expensive  housing options,  though not affordable by many standards.  The hoops that a landowner in Goochland must jump through to create a "granny flat"  are far too rigorous and need to be revisited.

In summary, Lafayette conceded that the best way to reduce the housing burden is to help people increase their incomes through education and job training.

All of these subjects relate to the county's strategic plan, whose main goal is to create an environment where citizens can pursue a satisfying and fulfilling lifestyle. Ideally, government is a catalyst, not a guarantor of success.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sharing information

L to R Del. Lee Ware, 65th District, Del. Peter Farrell 56th District, Sen. Tom Garrett 22nd District (Paul Drumwright is in the background)

Since taking office in 2012, Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors ha worked hard to leverage every tax dollar to maximum advantage.

The county negotiated a new contract with Waste Management that saved nearly a million dollars over a decade and included extensive renovations of the Central Convenience Center that did not cost taxpayers a penny.

The Supervisors also declined to renew the Goochland’s membership in the Virginia Association of Counties, which lobbies on behalf of localities in the Commonwealth. They contended that they have a good relationship with our delegation to the General Assembly (GA) and prefer direct communication.

Those representatives: Delegate Lee Ware, 65th District, western half of Goochland; Delegate Peter Farrell, 56th District, eastern half; and 22nd District Senator Tom Garrett, Entire County; came to Goochland on July 7.

The occasion was the annual Legislative Delegation Luncheon hosted by the Board of Supervisors. It was held in the community room of Reynolds Community College. Most elected and appointed officials as well as county and school division staff participated in a lively discussion and exchange of information.

Ware, who is the longest serving member of the Goochland delegation, said that the GA has put more money into the Virginia Retirement System to make it more solvent and set aside money in the state’s “rainy day” fund.

He also explained that the state revenues touted as on the increase tend to be non-discretionary federal pass throughs earmarked for things like Medicaid and social services. The amount of money that the GA can spend has not returned to 2007 levels.

In Virginia, counties and cities have only those powers given to them by the General Assembly, so it is vital that our representatives in Richmond are on the lookout for unintended consequences of laws they impose on their constituents.

Each summer the supervisors and school boards compile a list of topics that are affected by state actions.

This year, transportation issues were front and center for the county. Goochland is totally dependent on VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—for all road maintenance and improvement.

(GOMM must qualify routine snark here to commend VDOT for its excellent performance during last winter’s snow events. The maintenance crews do a good job often under difficult conditions.)

Following completion of an arterial management study of the Broad Street/Ashland Road corridors, improvements to the intersection of Rt. 288 and Broad Street Road were given highest priority.

These include more and wider lanes on exit ramps and traffic signals. Because Broad Street Road is so close to Interstate 64, there is no room to build a full cloverleaf at its intersection with Rt. 288. (This is the kind of design shortsightedness that earned the “Oops!” rating.)

As most of the increase in traffic on these roads will be generated by new development in Henrico County, the improvements have regional impact, which should loosen the state transportation purse strings. The estimated cost of the new lanes and signalization is $4.3 million.
Two other needed improvements with regional impact are signalization of the eastbound I64 off ramp to Ashland Road and the eastbound Patterson Avenue/West Creek Parkway interchange. Total estimated cost for both $1 million.

A new item this year is concern about the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process that governs new medical facilities. When the MEDARVA group, which operates a medical office building in West Creek, announced plans to open an outpatient surgery center there, competing providers filed suit contending that the existing MEDARVA outpatient facility in Stony Point has room for expansion and a new facility on the other side of the James River is redundant. This should be a matter decided by market forces and not courts.

The COPN requirement, which most states do not use, increases the cost of medical care without improving quality. Farrell contended that this will be a “big topic” in the 2016 session.

Internet access remains a concern.

Dr. James Lane Superintendent of Goochland Schools said that the lack of broadband “is a major equity issue for rural school divisions.” When students are unable to access the internet from home it “chokes” what the schools are able to offer in comparison to those areas with broadband access.

District 2 school board member Kevin Hazzard said that since “Baby Bell” telephone companies no longer have to provide land lines, there is a lot of “dry copper” wire in the ground that could be used to provide DSL internet. Those companies, Verizon in Goochland, are not required to sell that wire to anyone, which keeps out competitors.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 supervisor, said that Century Link, another internet provider would like to expand into western Goochland, but is prevented from doing so by regulation that favors Verizon.

Garrett asked for statutory details that prevent Century Link from expanding into Goochland.

The supervisors have contended for several years that a comprehensive, impartial study of the consequences, if any, if applying sewage and industrial sludge to farmland is badly needed. The studies in existence have been paid for by the companies that apply the substance.

District 5 supervisor Ken Peterson articulated the frustration of the board on the matter. One the one hand, the state Department of Environmental Quality has imposed strict storm water management regulations on the county, which increase the costs of development for every project of more than one acre. On the other hand, the DEQ also allows application of sewage and industrial sludge on farmland. Theoretically, the sludge application, if done according to regulations, does not pollute rivers and streams. There seems to be little oversight of the application process, however. To further muddy the waters, the county cannot prohibit the application of sludge.

District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey said that sludge has and is being applied to a lot of acreage in Goochland. “We don’t want this turning into another Love Canal,” he said alluding to the notorious toxic waste dump in western New York. Creasey advocates notation of sludge application on property deeds.

Monacan Soil and Water District Director Jonathan Lyle said that the source of soil enriching nutrients is irrelevant to the farmer. However, he agreed that credible information on the cumulative effects of sludge application is needed. “Farmers are stewards of the land. The ag industry wants it (sludge) safe and well-monitored to make sure that toxic heavy metals are not getting into the organic matter.”
Lyle said that he is not a fan of big government but believes additional regulatory oversight on sludge is needed to ensure that it is a safe practice.

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore is looking for a career change; perhaps he could be appointed sludge czar for life.

Lane said that the GA needs to take action to protect individual student data, which everyone in the state “currently has access to.”
Fluidity in the SOL testing was very helpful to ensure that each student achieves maximum potential, said Lane. He also discussed fiscal issues.

Garrett commended Goochland for being very proactive about communicating with legislators. He said that Goochland is one of the few jurisdictions in his district that meets and talks to him on a regular basis. “That’s why we carry so many bills for Goochland,” said Garret. “You asked.”
Ware, Farrell, and Garrett were lavish in their appreciation for the caliber of people who hold elected and appointed office in Goochland. “Goochland is the best in the business,” said Farrell. “You get ahead of the issues with this meeting.”

A final list of Goochland positions on selected issues will be completed and sent to the delegation in the fall.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday America

America's birthday is a good time to remember what makes us great and celebrates our goodness.

Please take time to watch this heart stirring rendition of a America the Beautiful and think about what the words mean for all of us.

(You'll need to cut and paste into your browser)

God Bless America.