Thursday, December 31, 2015

The more things change....

photo courtesy of the Goochland County Historical Society

In the fall of 1957, 58 years ago, an article in a Richmond newspaper cited Goochland leaders’ worry that the county was going to become “Richmond’s Long Island.”

They seemed to believe that the westward juggernaut of growth in Henrico County would soon consume Goochland as post World War II development transformed Long Island from an agricultural enclave into an enormous bedroom community. Richmond is not New York and lacks the transportation infrastructure—especially a commuter railroad—that abetted the transformation of Long Island.

When “Sputnik” entered America’s vocabulary, in 1957, the county population was about 9,000 souls, mostly farmers. Goochland’s largest employers were its two state prisons and the Luck Stone quarry at Boscobel in Manakin.

Over the years, residential subdivisions, both modest and exclusive, began to dot the county, mostly in the east end. Goochland’s population grew, but gracefully. Today, our population is about 22,000, a slight decrease from previous years due to the closing of a state prison. That will change as the economy strengthens and housing enclaves “on the books” gear up for construction.

The fear of Goochland being overrun by growth from Henrico is front and center once again with some justification. While longtime residents express dismay about development, drawbridge syndrome—I’m here so don’t let anyone else in—seems rampant among newcomers.

Everyone claims they want a “rural” lifestyle, whatever than means. Goochland is still small enough to have a strong sense of community, but that could end if tensions between the exurb east and the truly rural west escalate.

Goochland’s economy has changed too. Now we have several quarries, and major employers in Capital One, Virginia Farm Bureau, and CarMax, to name a few. The production of potent potables at wineries, breweries, and a soon to be cidery, adds more variety to economic development.

The face of development is morphing too. Goochland’s first apartments, in The Notch in West Creek, came online a few years ago with no dire results. At least one mixed use plan is in the works for the Centerville Village. Expect other new enterprises.

In 1957, there was no zoning. Today, every square inch of the county is zoned. This should ensure that all land use changes are made only after careful consideration to avoid unintended consequences.

Long Island exploded in the 1950’s because no one was paying attention. Today in Goochland, everyone is watching!

May your 2016 be filled with good health and joy. Happy New Year!!

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