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!