Thursday, December 29, 2016

Back to the polls

There is no rest for the election weary.

Goochlanders have one more opportunity to go to the polls before the 2016 election season is over. A special election on January 10 will select a successor to Tom Garrett, who won the 5th District seat the United States Congress in November, leaves the 22nd State Senate seat vacant.

Garrett was first elected to the state senate in 2011, as the 22nd District was reconfigured to include all of Goochland. Previously, the eastern third of the county was part of a senate district that included western Henrico precincts, and the remainder of the county was in a state senate district that included Powhatan County.

The boundaries of the new and improved 22nd district changed as the General Assembly wrangled with the United States Justice Department about the appropriate voter composition of the District. It was supposedly drawn as a safe republican district. The current and former 22nd Districts, according to the Virginia Public Access Page(http://www.vpap.org/offices/state-senate-22/redistricting/), have no common territory. Before 2011, the 22nd District included Roanoke and Blacksburg and surrounding territory. The new 22nd stretches from north of Lynchburg, to the Goochland/Henrico line and includes an odd-shaped chunk of Louisa County.

While we will probably never know all the machinations involved in creating the 22nd District, it seems clear that joining communities with common interests and challenges was not high on the priority list.

Garrett, elected Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2007, was chosen to carry the GOP banner following a contentious 2011 primary battle, and won the seat in the general election. He eventually moved to Buckingham, which is roughly in the center of the District.

Garrett got his start in politics as an aide to our former Delegate Bill Janis, who was succeeded by Peter Farrell. Until recently, Garrett kept a law office in Goochland Courthouse. During his time in the General Assembly, Garrett worked with the other members of our delegation to sponsor and shepherd bills beneficial to Goochland through the legislative process.

The current 22nd Senate district is huge, by some estimates taking more than two hours to drive from one end to the other. The candidate that prevails on January 10 will have a challenge keeping up with his 196,185 constituents. Goochland has approximately 22,000 people.

Goochland is the sole jurisdiction in the 22nd District that is attitudinally and economically in Richmond’s orbit. The remainder of the district “faces” west toward Charlottesville, Farmville, and Lynchburg.

Right now, state politicians are concentrating on the balance power in the 40-seat senate. Representing their constituents has moved to the back burner. Currently, the republicans hold a 21-19 lead, but that could change after the two special elections on January 10. (Democrat Donald McEachin of Henrico was also elected to Congress, leaving his state senate seat also vacant.)

We can only hope that all our state legislators work hard, and together, to address challenges facing the Commonwealth. We do not need any more unfunded mandates passed down the food chain to localities or poorly drafted laws that are impossible to interpret.

Goochlanders have a good record of turning out to vote. The January 10 election should be no exception. We need to make whoever wins this contest understand that Goochland expects to be well represented in the Virginia Senate, and we know how to impose term limits. (Ask Eric Cantor is this is in doubt.)

January 3 is the last day to register for this special election. All polling places will be open on that day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Go vote!


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Happiness is a warm puppy…

Or maybe the companionship of an adult dog, or the comfort of a cat purring on your lap. Goochlanders love their critters, but too many get lost, abandoned, or left out in the cold, literally. Connecting furry orphans with loving forever homes is a high priority for the county’s Department of Animal Protection—notice, it’s not called “animal control” here. (Visit the website at: http://goochlandva.us/299/Animal-Protection)

The existing approximately two thousand square foot county animal shelter, located just off Fairground Road at the entrance to Hidden Rock Park, is in violation of state standards. It will soon be replaced with a larger facility better able to care for abandoned animals seeking forever homes and strays waiting to be reunited with their people.

A new 12,000 square foot animal shelter will be built with $3.5 million of county funds on the existing site. The current facility will be raised and that area used for parking.

Thanks to caring local volunteers, a companion non-profit organization, Goochland Pet Lovers(GPL), has been formed to raise $1.2 million or so to build an adoption center that will be part of the new shelter.

At their December 6 meeting, the Goochland Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to an existing Conditional Use Permit (CUP) changing buffers and setback requirements for the new shelter. Board chair Bob Minnick, District 4, recused himself from the vote because a family member is involved with GPL.

During community meetings and the public hearing before the planning commission, neighboring property owners raised concerns about noise and runoff from the new shelter.

Stringent storm water controls, mandated by the state in recent years, require that all runoff contained on the site where it is generated. The new shelter will incorporate sound abatement into its construction.

Tim Clough, Animal Protection Director, presented an update on the shelter project during the afternoon session on December 6. The CUP arrival paves the way for finalization of the construction plans in January.

The latest design includes a spacious and efficient lobby; an isolation area for new arrivals to prevent the spread of disease; additional holding pens; cat condos; and a sally port.

The adoption center, to be funded by GPL, will include areas where people can interact with pets seeking forever homes to ensure a good fit and a happy ending. It will provide educational services and a spay and neuter clinic.

Designed to be built in phases, the new shelter is expected to go to bid in March with ground breaking tentatively scheduled for June.

Tom Winfree, GPL president, told the supervisors that the group is about a third of the way to its fundraising goal. He said that public private partnerships (P3) arrangements show what can be done by raising funds from non-tax sources for community projects.

Expect to hear a lot more from GPL early next year. This is another great example of Goochlanders working together to transform good ideas into reality.




Saturday, December 17, 2016

New Neighbors?



Local developer Scott Gaeser held an initial community meeting, that is not part of the county’s rezoning process, to share information about a proposed mixed use enclave in Centerville on December 15.

Goochland County created a mixed-use zoning category earlier this year. Because this is a new land use, every square inch of land in a mixed-use project must be rezoned. This process includes at least one officially sanctioned community meeting, and public hearings before the planning commission and Board of Supervisors, which can grant or deny the rezoning.

Despite the proximity to Christmas and frigid temperatures, the crowd at the Centerville Company 3 fire-rescue station was standing room only. In addition to area residents, three county supervisors, a planning commissioner, and several members of the county’s community development staff attended.

Gaeser said that he wanted to share his plans for the 37 acres behind and to the west of Essex Bank at the corner of Manakin and Broad Street Roads and see what people think. He explained that the project name Manakintowne pays homage to historic Three Chopt and Manakin Ferry Roads, which, at one time, intersected on the property. (This also adds to the confusion between Centerville and the Manakin Village, which is on Route 6.)

Mixed use zoning requires a master plan that lays out buildings, roads, parking, landscaping, open space, and amenities in detail. The ordinance language was crafted to provide the maximum flexibility for developers with the expectation that plans will far exceed the minimum requirements.

Gaeser’s initial plan—he said that it might be tweaked before formal presentations begin—includes a heavily landscaped entry boulevard. An open space to be used for the farmers market and other community events is a focal point. Neighborhood scale buildings shown in the elevations had both Tudor and Craftsman details to soften their exteriors. Gaeser said that there will be both retail and office space, to accommodate doctors, dentists, and small business, cafes, and services. The design incorporates all commercial space into a cohesive streetscape, and has no outparcels like Taco Bell.

The housing, as presented, consists of 230 apartments in two buildings, one three story, the other four floors. Gaeser said that the four-story building will be at the back of the site, where the land slopes, softening the height aspect.

Monthly apartment rents are anticipated as high as $2,400 for a three-bedroom unit. Gaeser said that the design and finishes in the apartments will be upscale. Amenities will include a fitness center, elevators, and garages. “It will be a safe and luxurious place to live.”

Prices for the forty townhomes are expected to be in the $400 thousand-dollar range. Gaeser explained that the residential units are not expected to be built before 2020.

Concerns about traffic were widespread. Adding several hundred vehicles to the daily crush was not well received. Gaeser contended that mixed use proposal is somewhat less intense of a use that the current B-1 zoning and that initial traffic studies did not call for a traffic signal.

Residents who live north of Broad Street Road argued that folks from the apartments or townhomes would exit via Manakin Road to make a left turn at the signal, because turning eft onto Broad Street Road would be impossible.

There was some discussion about a road access to Plaza Drive, which would not only move traffic away from Manakin Road, but provide another way for eastbound traffic to move through Centerville. Gaeser said that he would like Plaza Drive access, but so far, his efforts to secure it have been unsuccessful.

In response to the other general question of “why cram all of that housing there?” Gaeser said that is the place for high density housing because public utilities are in place and the roads are some of the best in the county. (Admittedly, the threshold for a good road in Goochland is low.)

The County’s 2035 comprehensive land use plan was mentioned a few times. As written, the Comp Plan expects that 85 percent of Goochland will be rural in twenty years. The other 15 percent, east of Manakin Road between Route 6 and the Hanover line, on the other hand, is destined for intense development. (See http://goochlandva.us/250/2035-Comprehensive-Plan for details)

Questions were asked about the impact of the project on government services, especially schools and fire-rescue. Gaeser contended that, even though Goochland schools get high marks, few people would move to Centerville to put their kids on county schools, but would go to Henrico instead. He said that the apartments at the Notch, opposite Wawa, have added only a handful of kids to the school system.

Residents cited trailers at Randolph elementary school as evidence that care needs to be taken not to overwhelm schools.

Fire-rescue is grappling with a fall-off in volunteer participation and difficulty recruiting paid staff, which would be exacerbated by an influx of new homes.

These points and more will be discussed and examined in detail going forward.
Gaeser expects to hold a “county sanctioned” community meeting on January 4 at Grace Chinese Baptist Church on Broad Street Road, that will have more detail.


Friday, December 9, 2016

The joy of Christmas past

Did you ever wish you could visit your childhood home at Christmas?

Mary File Clem and her lifelong friend Ellen Bain Smith do just that each year when they decorate the Bolling Hall dollhouse for the holiday.
The dollhouse, an exact replica of the stately home off of Rock Castle Road, was built by Mary's mother, Shirley File, many years ago. The one inch to one foot scale model offers a glimpse into the way it looked in the mid 20th century.

Mary said that her family bought Bolling Hall in 1947 and sold it in the mid-90's.

Mary and Ellen recalled the fun they had inside the house and on the grounds, as well as playing in a small cemetery, which is not depicted.

Mrs. File, who passed away in 1990, painstakingly collected tiny furniture, bedspreads, drapery, and carpets to recreate the way the inside of the home looked when her family lived there. She even made the tiny quilt that peeks out of a blanket chest in a bedroom.

From roof shingles fashioned out of sandpaper to the tiny pink slippers just like the ones that Mary wore as a child now sitting on the rug in "her" bedroom, the details bring the house to life.
Mary File Clem places slippers just like those she wore as a child on the floor in "her" bedroom.

The kitchen is equipped with a wood burning stove and Christmas treats on the table.

Miniature shopping bags strewn in a hallway make it seem like someone just got home from a trip to Miller&Rhodes. Milk bottles sit outside the door as if the milkman just dropped them off.

"This is such a part of Goochland history," Ellen said as she adjusted a tiny toy.


The Bolling Hall dollhouse is permanently displayed in an attractive glass case just outside the Registrar's Office on the main floor of the Goochland County administration building.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December Board HIghlights



The year 2016 brought a lot of change to Goochland County government. At the December 6 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, its last of the year, even more changes were announced.

*Since taking office as Goochland’s chief executive officer in July, County Administrator John Budesky seems to have been evaluating the leadership structure and organizational needs. Vacancies created by retirements and departures provided an opportunity to restructure county administration.

Derek Stamey

Budesky announced that Derek Stamey, Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management, will assume the position of Deputy County Administrator for Operations. Stamey will serve in Budesky’s absence and oversee parks and rec; animal protection; convenience centers; major capital construction; building maintenance and grounds operations; a consolidated fleet management effort; and other duties and projects as assigned.


Todd Kilduff, who had been director of utilities, has been promoted to Assistant County Administrator. He will continue to lead the utilities department; oversee the Community Development Department; and undertake additional tasks as assigned.

Paul Drumwright, who began his career with Goochland County as an intern eleven years ago, was promoted to Administrative Services Manager. He will provide oversight to the Office of ‘Children and Family Services and interface with other health and human services providers. Drumwright will continue to serve as legislative liaison, and increase his activity in public information activities, including posting to the county Facebook page and Twitter account.

Paul Drumwright

These changes to county administration, as well as the appointment of Barbara Horlacher as Director of Financial Services, bode well for the future by retaining familiar faces in expanded roles.

*At the end of the afternoon session of the December 6 meeting, the supervisors met in closed session to discuss a successor to County Attorney Norman Sales, who is expected to retire at the end of 2016.

*Goochland Electoral Board Secretary Robin Lind reported that, once again, Goochland County had the highest voting percentage in the Commonwealth for the 2016 presidential election. Goochland’s 85.2 percent turnout bested the statewide average of 78.6 percent. Commonwealth’s Attorney D. (does not indicate he’s a democrat) Michael Caudill netted 97.27 percent of votes cast.

Lind credited Goochland’s high turnout to the diligence of Director of Elections Frances Ragland and her deputies Phyllis Platt and Toni Holcombe. Lind also credited the consistent high voter turnout to the supervisors whose unstinting support telegraphs the value and importance of the electoral process.

But wait, there’s more! Goochland voters will have another opportunity to go to the polls on January 10 to participate in a special election to fill the 22nd District seat in the Virginia State Senate left vacant when incumbent Tom Garrett was elected to the United States Congress. So far, Republican Mark Peake of Lynchburg and Democrat Ryant Washington of Fluvanna are candidates for the seat. Lind said there was a possibility that there may be some independent candidates.

Board chair Bob Minnick, District 4, thanked Lind and who make elections successful in Goochland for all the work they do to make it happen. “It’s not easy to do that,” said Minnick.

*During County Administrator comments, Budesky said that he was honored to participate in the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony that took place on December 2. County staff, the Goochland YMCA, Sheriff’s Office, high school musical performers, fire-rescue and others collaborated on a wonderful event. County staff presented a check for $1,061 to Goochland Christmas Mother Wanda Taylor.

*Budesky thanked Dan Schardein, Deputy County Administrator for Community Development for his service to the county. Schardein will retire at the end of December.

*Marshall Wynn of VDOT reported that the traffic study for the Broad Street Road corridor east of Oilville Road to Cardwell Road has been completed. Three solutions have been offered. A meeting will be scheduled to discuss the options.
Wynn also said that the speed limit on Mill Trace Lane will be changed to 35 miles as the result of a speed study.
Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2, asked if paving recently applied to Rt. 522 is complete because it is very noisy. Wynn said that he road surface in question was coated with a latex modified seal. He said the noise will mitigate after it has been driven on “for a while.”

*County Assessor Mary Ann Davis reported that the land use revalidation process is 99 percent complete with only 15 parcels having failed to file the necessary forms. Davis said that her staff is continuing to follow up by phone and that she planned to personally make some house calls to help landowners get into compliance. Those who fail to complete the revalidation process by the end of the year will find that their next real estate assessment, and eventually tax bill, will be calculated using fair market rather than land use value. She commended staff members Robin Ellis and Dana Johnson who were on “the front lines” of this initiative to ensure that only properly eligible parcels are in the land use taxation program.

*The Virginia Park and Recreation Society, a private, non-profit professional society, awarded Goochland the best promotional effort for jurisdictions of fewer than 25,000 residents for its Fall “History Edition” Program Guide.

Stamey commended Michelle Swalin and Jessica Kronberg for their excellent work on this project. Parks and Rec publishes a guide of available programs three times each year. Hard copies are available in places like the Admin Building, the library and YMCA. See the Parks and Rec tab on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ for complete information.

*Principal Planner Jo Ann Hunter explained a new conditional use permit (CUP) policy that eliminates required renewals for low impact uses. This applies to CUPs issued after December 1, 2016. These CUPs will run with the land.

High impact CUPS, for uses that carry the potential to generate excessive noise and traffic, or adverse impacts on adjacent properties must still be renewed. The supervisors and staff will deem which uses are high impact.

The policy will also have a “sunset clause” to ensure that CUPs are acted upon within a certain time. Should the CUP expire before actions are taken, say an economic downturn delays application for a building permit, the applicant may apply for an extension. If no action is taken, the CUP is voided.

An enforcement policy in place to deal with willful violation of agreed upon conditions was modified slightly to state that staff will review CUP holders after the first five years to ensure that the conditions are being met.

The Board adjourned to January 3, 2017, for its annual organizational meeting.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Odds and ends



The Goochland County Board of Supervisors met in a special called session on November 29 to approve the certified annual financial report (CAFR) for fiscal year 2016, which ended on June 30, and tend to a few other matters.

Each year Goochland County retains the services of outside accountant firm, currently PBMares, to take a detailed look at its books and how it handles finances and prepare the CAFR. For the past few years, the county has gotten high marks and almost clean reports, yet remains in the “at risk category” it landed in when the county treasurer was convicted of embezzlement in 2011.

The 2016 CAFR was presented to and approved by the supervisors on November 29 to enable filing of Goochland’s CAFR with the state by a November 30 deadline.
PBMares principal Mike Garber said it is unusual for a governing board to hold a special meeting to approve a CAFR by the filing deadline. Most jurisdictions, he said, file their CAFRs by November 30 and approve them at their next regularly scheduled meeting.

The audit committee, whose members include representatives from the county and school division, met with Garber for an informal review of the 2016 CAFR before the meeting. Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 chairs the audit committee. Supervisors Susan Lascolette, District 1, and Ken Peterson, District 5 are also on the committee.

The only fly in the ointment, really a metaphorical gnat, is a repeat of last year’s issue with the Department of Social Service failing to fully recertify all Medicaid recipients in a timely manner.

As explained by Kimberly Jefferson, DSS director, the fault lies in the mandated use of state computer systems that are often down or have excruciatingly slow response times. According to the CAFR, available in its entirety under the financial services tab on the county website goochland.va.us, the turnover rate for trained benefit specialists who perform these recertifications is very high due to demands of the job and salary scales. This is a phenomenon that plagues other jurisdictions, and was cited in a recent JLARC report.

Hiring additional personnel, including experienced retirees on a part-time basis, and use of mandatory overtime has addressed the problem. The state recently added other SS programs to this cumbersome system, which exacerbated the problem for many localities.

Jefferson said that her staff has used creative strategies, including working early in the day and on holidays and weekends when the state computer system responds more quickly, to catch up, and, hopefully, remain in compliance.

Another minor ripple, which Garber said was easily corrected by a journal entry, involved about 17 checks written near the end of the 2016 year, which were erroneously posted to the 2017 year. Additional internal controls were put in place to ensure that this does not happen again.

Please look at the CAFR and try to understand how are tax dollars are used.

The supervisors also reviewed the calendar for the FY2018 budget process, which has already begun.
Next year, County Administrator John Budesky will present his recommended budget on February 21. In following weeks, the public safety budget and school budget, which will be approved by the school board after its own budget process on February 14, will be presented to the supervisors. Other departments will make their budget presentations in February and March to coincide with spring town hall meetings.

A public hearing on the proposed budget, which could be tweaked after all the presentations and hearings, and tax rate is scheduled for April 4. Adoption of the FY 2018 budget and setting of tax rates for calendar 2017 will occur on April 18.

This will streamline the budget process and eliminate many of the marathon budget workshops of the past. According to the document in the November 29 meeting packet, the supervisors established budget priorities in their “November 2 on 2” meetings with Budesky and staff.

The Board set a December 6 public hearing for an ordinance amendment regarding itinerant merchant license fees.

A bright red ribbon was cut to formally celebrate the completion of the new Department of Community Development space. Wasted hallway space was ingeniously converted into welcoming, attractive, efficient, and functional work areas. The project was overseen by DCD office manager Sara Worley and completed on time within budget.

Board Chair Bob Minick, District 4, and DCD Office Manager Sara Worley cut a ribbon to dedicate the newly renovated space. Superivosrs Manuel Alvarez, Jr. and Susan Lascolette to the left and County Administrator John Budesky to the right.



The supervisors then went into closed session to discuss litigation concerning the issuance of a CUP to Bandit’s Ridge for an event venue with counsel and hear staff briefings on the matter.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Where eagles soar


GMS Principal Jennifer Rucker

For those of us educated in the last century, grades 6, 7, and 8—now called middle school—were probably not the best years of our lives. Things have changed for the better.
Principal Jennifer Rucker graciously took time from her busy schedule to give GOMM a peek at the workings of Goochland Middle School, whose mascot is the eagle, as part of American Education Week. Named a “2016 school to watch”, GMS is one of the top 144 middle schools in the country. That is the result of hard work by amazing teachers supported by administrators and our school board.

Each school day morning, Rucker greets the nearly 600 GMS students as they arrive for their daily dose of education. Her career path began in higher education. After working at the high school level to better prepare students for college, she moved to middle school, where, she believes, it all begins.

Students begin their school day by walking under their mascot, the eagle.

At GMS, the old basics of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic are enhanced by robotics, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and more subtle skills including collaboration with other students.

Glimpses into classrooms revealed students—girls and boys— learning about foods rich in Vitamin A, part of a curriculum that includes conflict resolution and other domestic skills.

Students used their iPads—one is assigned to each student at GMS—for a myriad of learning related activities.

Multi charger keeps all the iPads humming.

In a STEM class, students created organisms and habitats that would support them, then presented their work to the class. In another class, Minecraft is used in collaborative “scrums” where complimentary skills combine craft solutions. In yet another, geography came to life on the small screens as young fingers deftly maneuvered images on a screen.

Devices are at the command of dexterous fingers and minds in pursuit of learning.

Gym class, which stretches both muscles and minds is more low tech. Students ran circuits around the gym collecting a clue to a Thanksgiving saying and a letter that is part of seasonal word that would be revealed at the end of the session. The kids were active, let off some excess energy, and had fun.


Tried and true educational traditions are also alive and well in the classroom of English teacher Ms. Ray. Her students diagram sentences on paper the old-fashioned way. They also collaborated on a collection of short stories featuring characters Gooch and Glenda. R them here https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-E15YKnk70sy9lioYU2RR_OgzCgojCHmNLc76gKFUGQ/edit.

You can almost hear the hum of young neurons firing as they seize knowledge from these experiences. Cross disciplinary instruction is in every classroom. The ruler straight rows of desks of yore have been replaced with groupings of students sharing skills and encouraging each other to the conclusion of a problem. Students were engaged as they sought the satisfaction of a task well done. Best of all, it seemed like pretty much everyone was having a good time.

But it’s not all tapping on computers. Robotics students learn to use the lathe by making beautiful wooden pens. Crafting paper airplanes with rubber band propellers teach aerodynamics. Band saws and power tools are used in many classes.
These pens are a part of the robotics curriculum.

Band saws and power tools are used in several disciplines. This is not your father's shop class.


Rucker acknowledges that middle school can be a difficult time for students, but the entire staff at GMS works hard to help every student thrive. Counseling and testing is used to identify students struggling in an area and provide appropriate remediation. Posters cautioning against the evils of drugs and alcohol are prominently displayed, hopefully planting the seeds of an important message in impressionable minds.

Academic excellence is only part of the GMS educational experience. Rucker said that GMS aims to create a supportive environment that does not tolerate bullying and encourages kindness.

The world is changing at a whipsaw pace. Learning to learn may be the most important skill our kids need to thrive in their future. Many will have careers that have not yet been invented. GMS is pointing our kids in the right direction.

Please visit the GMS website http://gms.goochlandschools.org/ to learn more.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Highlights of November Board of Supervisors' Meeting


Goochland’s Board of Supervisors began its November 1 meeting by formally voting to permit Ned Creasey, District 3, to participate electronically from his hospital bed. Creasey reportedly was responding well to treatment and sounded chipper over the speaker phone as he made comments and voted.

-During public comment period, two Hadensville residents who own homes on the Royal Virginia golf course raised concerns about the sale of the property to a Charlottesville company that plans to close the course and place a conservation easement on the property so that investors can take advantage of tax breaks. They contended that the previous owner of the course spent a lot of money to put it into pristine condition. Employees of Royal Virginia, they said, have been notified that the course is closing at the end of November.

Closure of the golf course, they contended, will reduce the assessed value of their homes, and in turn, county real estate tax revenues.

These gentlemen suggested that the county take over the course and run it as a revenue producing enterprise. Petersburg, they said, runs a golf course and is pursuing an ABC license to make it more profitable.

After the meeting, County Administrator John Budesky said that the county may have no say about the conservation easement. The supervisors, who learned about the sale of Royal Virginia from the media, may try to arrange a meeting with homeowners to discuss the matter.

It seems unlikely that the Board has any interest in owning or running a golf course.

-Budesky thanked all who made the county’s Fall Festival on October 28 a success. He commended Derek Stamey, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities Management and his staff for a job well done. Deputies, fire-rescue and other volunteers also contributed to a great day that was well-attended.

-Marshall Wynn of VDOT reported that the speed study on Mill Trace did not recommend a 35 MPH limit. Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2, said he was disappointed in the result. River Road West through Courthouse Village has a 35 MPH limit. Mill Trace is a residential road, where people run, walk, and ride bikes. Deer are a hazard there too. Deputies recently issued 11 speeding tickets in a two-hour period on that road.

Wynn said that a traffic study for the Rt. 250/Fairground Road area recommended additional signage be deployed. Really? Signs imply that drivers zipping along way over the speed limit pay attention to signs and can read English. A more visceral indication of an impending hazard, like a very low profile rumble strip, would do a better job of getting drivers to pay attention. The eastbound approach to Fairground Road is a blind hill, by the time you get to the top and are able to see traffic turning into the eastbound lane, it could be too late to slow down. But signs are cheap and easy to deploy.

Alvarez requested a copy of the Fairground/250 study.

Wynn also reported that another VDOT study found that the River Road/Rt.6 interchange “is not close” to needing a traffic light at this time.

-County Assessor Mary Ann Davis declared the recertification of property in the land use program a success. She said that 94 percent of the required forms had been received and an additional 117 were expected before the end of the day, meeting the November 1 deadline. Her staff kept up with the influx of documentation, and were calling those who had not submitted recertification forms. Bills for the $25 late fee will be sent out for those who do not comply.

-Goochland received the Virginia Recycling Associations 2016 outstanding rural innovations award. This honor recognizes the many recycling invitations sponsored by the county, usually under the direction of Leigh Dunn, curbside recycling and GARC coordinator, including electronic and curbside recycling and community shredding and tire amnesty events. (The next of these is scheduled for November 19 on the corner of Sandy Hook and Fairground Road in Courthouse Village.)

- Goochland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Raley, presented an update on fiber optic cable being run along Rt. 6 from the county administration building to Byrd Elementary School.

Efforts to provide BES with high speed internet access have been disappointing and increasingly expensive. The fiber’s approximately $500,000 cost is funded mostly by a grant from USAC e-rate and $99,680 from the county. The fiber will also connect to the Company 4 fire-rescue station. Leasing cable from Comcast would cost more than $3 million over a twenty-year period. For an additional ten thousand dollars, the county will be able to run additional strands of fiber, which it will own, through the conduit. These strands would be available for lease by the county to service providers at a future time to recoup the cost and expand broadband west of Courthouse Village. Still in the planning stages, this fiber project holds great promise for extension of high speed internet into the communication desert of western Goochland.












Thursday, November 3, 2016

Who ya gonna call?



The agenda of the Tuesday, November 1 meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors contained an item that will sadden the hearts of many. Goochland Fire-Rescue asked to accelerate hiring of two additional fire-rescue staff from July 1, to January 1, 2017.

The request was prompted by letters received earlier in the year from the volunteer District Chiefs of Manakin Company 1 and Centerville Company 3 that they can no longer supply core levels of staffing. They asked to have career providers deployed at their stations to supplement volunteers.

In 2013, the supervisors approved a ten-year staffing plan that would gradually add paid fire-rescue providers on a schedule predicated on volunteer participation levels remaining steady at 2013 levels. According to Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay, volunteer participation has declined 38.35 per cent in the last three years.

MacKay said that in 2013, there were 412 volunteers on the books countywide, including auxiliary members and drivers. By 2015, the number had dwindled to 346, with only 55.96 percent of those in call responding positions.

Fire-Rescue volunteers are the embodiment of community self-reliance, a hallmark of rural character. Transitioning to career life safety service is a sign that things are changing.

Reasons for this decline are many. Fewer people have the time or inclination to commit to what is essentially a demanding second unpaid job. Newcomers to the county are less likely to volunteer for fire-rescue service, and most volunteers work elsewhere. It’s hard to be up half the night responding to 911 calls and be on your job bright and early the next morning. There are other reasons for the volunteer fall off. Visit your local fire-rescue station and talk to the incredible people who freely give of their time and talents to save lives and protect property in Goochland.


Before the discussion on staffing, the supervisors approved a fire-rescue request to use cost recovery funds to purchase video laryngoscopes for each of the county’s front line ambulances. These devices help advanced life support EMS providers quickly and safely intubate patients to establish an airway and keep them breathing during transport to a hospital, which can be a long trip from Goochland.

This illustrates that the pre-hospital emergency care delivered by our amazing EMS volunteers is increasingly complex, requiring many hours of training over and above on duty hours.

As MacKay told the supervisors, Goochland is not alone in its volunteer staffing predicament. Last year, Rockville’s volunteer fire company closed. Residents of northeastern Goochland/western Hanover have raised concerns about the dearth of available EMS units in this area.

MacKay said that filling career fire-rescue positions has been challenging as Goochland competes with Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, which have large departments and deeper pockets. The recruitment process includes written and agility testing and a stringent background investigation. MacKay said that there are often many “no shows” for the testing, but those that do participate have high pass rates; the background check, not so much.

Due to two existing vacancies, money is available to fund the additional positons with no extra funding needed from the county. Revenues generated by the cost recovery program, which charges insurance for EMS hospital transport based on distance and level of care, help fund career positions.

MacKay said that approval of additional providers will enable deployment of 24/7 EMS crews at four of the county’s six fire-rescue stations, to be augmented by volunteers when possible. He hopes to have all approved positions filled early in 2017. The Chef hopes that the current pool of 71 applicants will yield at least four well-qualified employees.

Supervisor Ned Creasey, District 3, hospitalized to attend to health matters attended the meeting electronically. Creasey, who is also a Fire-Rescue life member, offered to work with MacKay to expedite background checks.

A request for additional career fire-rescue providers in the budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins next July 1, seems likely.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The passing of the barns

Gone but not forgotten (photo from www.westcreekva.com Patteson Avenue site)



An October 26 community meeting to discuss a pending West Creek land use change revealed why the barns, silo, and other buildings on the site of the former Oak Hill golf course, were recently removed.

Michael and Thomas Pruitt, whose family company owns the 3,500-acre West Creek business park, explained that the structures experienced vandalism despite fences and no trespassing notices. “We tried to give the barns and silo to anyone who wanted to move them, but got no takers. It was a safety issue,” Michael said.

For many people, these barns, on the edge of the northbound ramp to Rt. 288 from Rt. 6, were the quintessential embodiment of Goochland’s rural nature, their demise one more reminder that things are changing. Some folks forget, or never realized, that Goochland is not a theme park, barns, fields, forests and ponds are not put there for the visual enjoyment of passersby.

The community meeting, a mandated step in the process to change land use, provided a forum for discussion of a rezoning application for approximately 7.53 acres on the north side of Rt.6 just east of Rt. 288. The property is part of the now defunct the Oak Hill golf course, which closed about 20 years ago to make way for a Motorola computer chip manufacturing plant that never materialized.

Thomas Pruitt explained that adding the land to West Creek, and rezoning it from A-2 agricultural to the M-1 category that covers the rest of the park, will enable construction of a de facto mixed use enclave. The zoning application also asks that proffers mandating a 1,000-foot setback from Rt. 6 for retail uses be deleted and buffer requirements be amended.

The neighbors were not amused. They contended that when West Creek was created in 1989 they were told that its tenants would be corporate headquarters and light industrial uses, but not fronting on Rt. 6.

Thomas explained that West Creek has evolved over time. Light industrial “is not going to happen” there. Current occupants of West Creek, including Capital One, have expressed interest in having services, such as a grocery store and restaurants, closer to them.

Michael explained that West Creek has approximately one million square feet of interior retail space, but no retailer would locate there. Visibility on a main road is key to attracting upscale tenants. “If you tuck it (retail)in the woods it’s not going to happen.”

A conceptual plan of the project included a major tenant, possibly a grocery store, of about 50 thousand square feet, considerably larger than the Centerville Food Lion. An additional 20 thousand feet of retail space and five restaurant pad sites facing Rt. 6 would be at the “front” of the project. The residential component, expected to be upscale rental apartments, are separate and behind the commercial portion, which could include office space. Easy access by foot among the different parts, “walkability,” will be a feature of the enclave.

Neighbors asked why enterprises would want to locate on the subject property given the numerous vacancies in an existing strip shopping center a few miles east in Henrico. Thomas said that the proposed retail space will be high end and different from existing Rt. 6 retail space. “This is our front door. We want to do to right.” West Creek has stringent design and landscape requirements for the entire park.

The Pruitts conceded that the proposal will increase traffic on Rt. 6 and require a traffic signal at the entrance, roughly opposite Pagebrook Drive, which was mangled by the advent or Rt. 288. Signalization is controlled by VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops! —through its convoluted warrant process. Existing shoulders and the Rt. 6 median fronting the property are extra wide and should accommodate any needed turn lanes. Road improvements, part of the development process, will be dictated by VDOT.

The traffic signal at Blair Road has helped traffic backups in the area, but, as one neighbor put it, is “no magic bullet.” Access to the interior of the project will be via a road behind what is now an iron gate that will eventually connect to West Creek Parkway.

Principal Planner Tom Coleman of the Goochland County staff, said that commercial development south of Rt. 6 is unlikely due to difficulties with extending public water and sewer. Current uses on the south side of Rt.6: low density residential, cemetery, and Collegiate School fields will prevail.

Thomas Pruitt estimated that it would be years before any construction occurs. The rezoning is just the first step. Obtaining approval of a plan of development and storm water management measures as well as finding appropriate tenets for the commercial and office space would precede construction.

In response to questions about the general area, Coleman said that Collegiate has built out its property on Blair Road; any major new construction there must go through the complete land use change process, which provides ample opportunity for citizen input.

Goochland Civil and Environmental Engineer Debbie Byrd said that the property near the corner of River and Blair Roads has been timbered and will be replanted with trees. It is not being cleared for development. We also forget that trees can be a crop with a decades long growing season. No one complains when the corn is gathered in, but when acreage is timbered, people scream about the ruination of “their” viewshed.

Coleman explained that the next step in rezoning the subject property will be a public hearing before the Goochland Planning Commission at its December meeting and a second public hearing before the supervisors as early as next January. The supervisors make the final decision. Check the calendar on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ for updates and details.






Monday, October 24, 2016

Up the food chain


Localities like Goochland County are at the bottom of the governmental food chain. Elected representatives in Washington and Richmond tend to pass laws that sound good in theory, but have unintended consequences in the real world. All too often, decrees from on high come with no funding, forcing local governments to divert money from other areas to pay for them.

Pushing back against Congress is a waste of time, but Goochland County’s local officials are not shy about letting our state legislators know when pending or possible bills will have a negative impact here.

Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities have only those powers expressly granted to them by the state legislature, so maintaining a good working relationship with our General Assembly delegation is important. One of the first things the current supervisors did after taking office in 2012 was to end Goochland’s participation in the Virginia Organization of Counties (VaCO), which, lobbies the legislature on behalf of counties. Goochland, they contended, has always kept close touch with its state legislators, so there is no need for a middleman.

Each summer our elected officials sit down with state legislators to discuss matters of importance that could be addressed in pending legislation.

In early fall, the supervisors and school board fine tune and prioritize issues into a legislative agenda. At its October 4 meeting, the Board of Supervisors discussed the proposed legislative agenda for the 2017 session. As the General Assembly Session is short and the number of bills presented staggering, the county and schools prioritize issues of greatest concern but include policy positons on a wider range of matters.

This year, the county has put a priority on increasing regulation on the transportation of biosolids and sludge. After at least two sludge truck wrecks last year that closed roads, the supervisors have asked that vehicles transporting sludge from storage facilities to application sites carry adequate liability insurance coverage. Regulation of the time of sludge transportation—currently, large sludge trucks may transport the substance from wastewater treatment plants to storage facilities at any time, including the middle of the night. Localities have no power to reject land application of sludge.

A related priority issue is the completion of a multi-year study by JLARC of the cumulative effects of land application of biosolids and industrial sludge, which was passed in the 2016 GA session. Restrictions on limited residential lodging, like Airbnb and broadband expansion top the county list.

The schools once again ask that the state allow school divisions to determine the best start date for their community, rather than require a waiver to being the school year before Labor Day.

Recognizing a need for more local control to pursue excellence in education, the schools also request revised verified credit requirements for graduation to complement further reduction in mandatory SOLs at the high school level; oppose legislation requiring redistribution of local dollars when establishing statewide virtual schools; and oppose any bill requiring “maintenance of effort,” which our school leaders believe discourages efficiency.

Policy positions supported by the county include:

Elimination or restructuring of the state’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program, which determines where medical facilities can be built. The supervisors believe that health care dollars are better spend on actual care than legal fees.

Clarification of legislation passed last year to “defang” local proffer policies. The law as written is vague at best.

Requiring legislation with local fiscal impact to be presented on the first day of a General Assembly session; prohibition of any new legislation with unfunded mandates and imposition of a “sunset clause” on existing unfunded mandates.

Any legislation that enhances the Commonwealth as a good place to do business.

Granting counties the same taxation powers as cities and towns.

Regional transportation priorities especially:
intersection improvements at Rt. 288 and West Broad Street Road; traffic signal at eastbound I64 and Ashland Road; traffic signal at West Creek Parkway and Rt. 6; and (drumroll) the Tuckahoe Creek Parkway Bridge to connect Ridgefield Parkway and Rt. 288.
For the complete list, see pages 80-89 of the October 4 board packet.

The Virginia General Assembly meets for only a short time each year and there is a limit to the number of bills the can be acted upon. Goochland is represented by Delegates Lee Ware and Peter Farrell and Senator Tom Garrett, who is running for Congress. Should Garrett go to Washington, a special election will be called to elect his replacement. District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson is vying for the republican nomination to replace Garrett, which would result in a vacancy on the Goochland Board of Supervisors. Stay tuned to see how this all plays out.





Friday, October 14, 2016

Going local

Going local

Districts 4 and 5 kicked off the current round of Goochland County town hall meetings on October 12 at the Hermitage Country Club. These sessions provide an opportunity for citizens to engage with elected and appointed officials in a casual environment.
Two additional meetings are scheduled: District 2 and 3 on Tuesday, October 18 at the Goochland Library; and District 1 at Byrd Elementary School. All begin at 7 p.m. The core presentation is similar, there will be ample time for questions and discussion of district specific concerns.

Board of Supervisors’ chair Bob Minnick, who represents District 4 served as emcee. The gathering was well attended. A brief summary of the meeting follows:

Sample ballots for the November 8 election were provided by County Registrar Frances Ragland. In addition to candidates, Virginias will vote on proposed amendments to the state constitution. One amendment deals with right to work, the other gives localities the option of exempting spouses of law enforcement officers and other emergency responders killed in the line of duty from real estate taxes. Visit http://www.elections.virginia.gov/election-law/proposed-constitutional-amendment-2016/ for more information.

Perhaps the most important duty of the supervisors and school board is selection of a chief executive officer—county administrator and superintendent of schools respectively—to ensure that their policies are carried out for the benefit of the citizens. In the past six months, both positions were filled with men well-qualified in temperament and background to continue and expand upon the good work of their predecessors.

Minnick introduced new county administrator John Budesky who said he was honored to serve the citizens of Goochland and pledged to work with everyone to “make a better Goochland.” On the job since August 1, Budesky has been busy learning his way around and meeting people.

John Wright, District 5 school board member, introduced superintendent of schools Dr. Jeremy Raley, who has been on the job since the end of June. Raley gave a brief overview of county schools, their mission and goals. He proudly touted the excellence that has become the norm here and explained that the school division is committed to helping every learner maximize their potential.

The career and technical education program provides an opportunity for students to graduate with marketable skills. (Visit Goochlandschools.org to learn about all of the great things happening right here in Goochland.) Raley declared that it is the school division’s job to ensure that every learner is better off at the end of each school year than on the first day.

Minnick said that economic development is moving right along. The announcementlast week that Sheltering Arms and VCU intend to build a 114 bed rehabilitation hospital in West Creek is the latest addition to new construction in the east end of the county. Others on the horizon include Audi of Richmond; Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; and the Bristol, an apartment community near Rt. 288.

The planned animal shelter; emergency operations center; and Hadensville Company 6 fire-rescue station, which are under construction were discussed. In the not too distant future, the county plans to build a new elementary school, a fire-rescue station on land proffered in West Creek, and at a later date, a new courthouse. Ken Peterson, District 5, explained that the county is playing catch-up with facilities whose construction was postponed due to the economic downturn.

The budget process for fiscal 2018, which begins on July 1, 2017, will soon get underway. This includes an update of the county’s five-year capital improvement plan, which prioritizes large expenditures, and funding mechanisms.

For the first time since 1997, property owners who participate in the land use taxation program will be required to recertify their eligibility. County records are badly out of date and this was determined to be the best way to get current information. About 51 percent of the land in the county is in the program, which taxes land by the acre, rather than its assessed valuation.

This tax break is intended to support agricultural, horticultural, or forestal use and discourage residential development. District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. estimated that the county foregoes approximately $3 million in revenue from property in land use. A workshop will be held in the county administration building on October 20 to explain the recertification process in detail.

The ad valorem tax, currently 32 cents per $100 of valuation in addition to the 53 cent real property tax to fund debt service on the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, is of great interest to folks in the east end. Ken Peterson, District 5, explained that, to keep the ad valorem tax steady, the county needs to add about $100 million new value to the TCSD annually and must “run hard to stand still.”

Projects to improve performance and mitigate issues with water are almost complete, said Minnick. These include a chlorinator, a mixer to prevent contents of the Centerville water tower getting stale, and removal of a tank.

During question time, Linda Moore, who lives where Goochland, Hanover and Louisa come together, contended that she lives in a “911 desert” and suggested that new fire-rescue stations be accessible to more remote parts of the area.

Minnick said that the supervisors have looked hard at staffing the Sheriff’s Office and fire-rescue for a number of years.

Peterson explained that the county has three 24/7/365 paid fire-rescue crews on duty, deployed in the east, west, and central parts of the county. These paid responders are supplemented, when possible, by volunteer providers. Mutual aid agreements with neighboring counties are in place to lend a hand. The supervisors fund additional paid providers each fiscal year and expect to double the number in seven years. Goochland has an amazing corps of fire-rescue volunteers who commit many hours of their free time to train and run calls that save lives and protect property in the county. For a variety of reasons, their numbers are declining as demand for service rises.

(Food for thought. Goochland ambulances transport patients to Richmond, Charlottesville, and points in between. It can take several hours between the time an EMS crew is dispatched to a call and is back in service. When things get busy—a more frequent occurrence as the county grows—a condition known as NUA (no units available) exists. If available, volunteers pitch in to respond to calls until a “duty crew” returns to the county, but there are no guarantees this will happen.)


Criteria for siting new fire-rescue stations, said Peterson will include population density. The location of existing fire-rescue stations, some of which were built more than 50 years ago, are now in the wrong place relative to where people live.

Peterson said there are no traffic studies underway that could result in a traffic signal at River Road and Route 6. A signal is planned at Route 6 and Hope Church. Minnick said that the county is working with VDOT to improve safety at the northbound Rt. 288/Broad Street Road interchange by adding additional exit land and installing a traffic signal. Plans are also in the works to extend Fairgrounds Road to Route 6.

The county does not build or maintain any roads, that is VDOT’s responsibility. The county engages in very cumbersome process to prioritize funds allocated for road construction and maintenance in the county.





Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Highlights of the October 4 Goochland Supervisors’ meeting


In case you haven’t heard, Goochland County received two awards for excellence in its use of technology to keep citizens informed and engaged in local government. Goochland received the Digital Counties Survey Award from the Center for Digital Government for counties with populations up to 150,000. and the Governor’s Technology Award for best citizen portal.
Goochland Director of Information Technology Qiana Foote and the award.

The current board of supervisors believes that transparent government is an essential part of good government. To that end, all kinds of information is available at the county website Goochland.va.us. From the check registers and credit card statements for both county government and school division to the annual budget, certified annual financial report, citizens can see for themselves how our local government operates.

The awards are the product of the hard work of everyone in county government led by the Information Technology Department under the leadership of its director Qiana Foote. A county Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Goochland-County-VA went live recently as did a Twitter account https://twitter.com/GoochlandGovtVA to help our county better connect with citizens. These social media sites will be especially useful in times of emergency to disseminate important information.

A rabies clinic will be held On Sunday, October 16 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the corner of Sandy Hook and Fairgrounds Road. The cost is $10 per dog or cat.

“How we treat our pets is a reflection of us as a community,” Board Chair Bob Minnick, District 4 allegedly observed. His words describe a group of dedicated volunteers who plan to make that notion reality. A new animal shelter is in the works to support the excellent work of the Department of Animal Protection under the direction of Tim Clough. In addition to space to house animals “in custody” the new facility will include an adoption center funded by a public private partnership.

Junior Past County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson previewed the work of Goochland Pet Lovers a 501 (c)3 organization. Board Chair is Tom Winfree, President Wayne Dementi.

The mission of the organization explained Dickson, is “fund raising and friend raising in support of providing the very best adoption and rescue experience for both pets-in-need and the community through an innovative public/private partnership with Goochland County.”

It was established in June, in response to community support to offer services beyond the basic state mandated core functions of the new animal shelter. Oversight of finances of the organizations will be available to the county to ensure transparent operations
The adoption center will occupy about 2,600 of the planned 12,900 square feet in the new facility. It will include a reception area to allow people to spend time in the shelter, plain view of adoptable pets, cat towers, and construction of “shell space” for an eventual for a spay neuter area. Glass rooms to allow prospective “parents” to view adoptable pets on off hours is also planned. The expected total cost is $4.8 million, including the estimated at $1.5 million for the adoption center.

Dickson requested county support of an initial $50,000 in seed money for Goochland Pet Lovers, and an additional $100,000 in capital funds. Startup costs for the organization could include retention of professional fund raising support and creation of promotional materials. She also requested in-kind assistance from the county to include meeting space and clerical and technical support.

The GPL board, said Dickson, includes an attorney and a CPA, as well as many local philanthropists. Special fund raising events are planned. The supervisors appropriated the initial amount and the approved the capital contribution—to be made when GPL funds are fully raised—and whole-heartedly endorsed in-kind support.

According to County Administrator John Budesky, the animal shelter, whose construction is expected to go to bid early next year, was designed to be built in phases so the adoption center can be built at a later time if funds are not in hand at the outset.

Dementi said that the GPL board is in the final stages of securing its tax deductible status, adding members, and putting its “game plan” together. He expects that the bulk of fund raising will occur in 2017, starting in late winter.

As FLAG, the local volunteer rescue organization that had rescued more than 3,500 pets in its 30-year history, is shutting down, the proposed adoption center is good news. Dementi said that GPL has reached out to FLAG and is still in discussions.

Collaborating with a local non-profit to fund a useful enhancement for the county’s animal protection department is an ingenious approach to a better Goochland.

The supervisors went into closed session to discuss the assignments and performance of the county attorney.

At the end of their afternoon session, the Board toured the nearly complete renovations of the Department of Community Development space on the first floor of the administration building. The wide hallway left over from the building’s first life as a high school will now be used for office and other work spaces. A new customer service center providing one stop assistance, and large conference room will be nice additions to the building. Renovations are expected to be complete and the DCD moved back in by November 14.

Incorporating wide hallways into workspace will enhance operations in the Department of Community Development.



Thursday, October 6, 2016

Octoberfest at the sausage factory


Goochland supervisors labored late into the night of October 4 as they voted on tricky land use matters in ways that made few people happy.

The public hearing on sale of the old bus garage site, which has been deemed surplus property, to an entity that intends to build a CVS big box emporium there for $1,350,000 drew the most interest from the community.

This parcel is one of several owned by the county that were started through the rezoning process last April and rezoned to B1 in August. Because Matt Ryan, director of economic development, received a letter of intent to purchase the parcel on the corner of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads shortly after the rezoning, there was some speculation that the county was in cahoots with the purchaser, Lee Hall Plaza, Inc. and it was an under the table done deal.The livestream of this portion of the meeting does not seem to have been recorded.(The link has been fixed and this portion of the meeting is now available for viewing. October 11, 2016.)

Ryan said that he believed that Lee Hall Plaza, Inc. was scouting for a location in Courthouse Village and may have considered another privately owned site, also zoned B-1. As pharmacies with drive-through windows are by right uses in the B-1 zoning district, no public hearing would be required for the private purchase, but would still need to comply with overlay district standards.

Wayne Dawson, owner of Dawson’s Pharmacy, contended that the sale of the property to pave the way for a CVS would put him out of business. Many, if not all, of the supervisors, are Dawson’s customers and know first-hand the caliber of personal service he provides to the community.

Ashley Dawson explained that her father grew up working in a small town pharmacy and brought that kind of service to Goochland. “” You’re not going to get the same kind of after hours service from a chain. The only time my father did not make a delivery was when he was walking my sister down the aisle,” she tearfully declared. Indeed, many in the Goochland community have experienced Wayne personally delivering a prescription on his way home.

He likened the advent of a CVS here to being shot in the head after giving everything he had in service to the Goochland community since 2005. He said that it is impossible for a small independent pharmacy to compete with a national chain. Dawson also wondered why CVS would be interested in Courthouse Village, which has a small population. It might make sense in Centerville, he said, where there are more people and no pharmacy. Given the number of vacant commercial properties in Courthouse Village, both along River Road West and Sandy Hook Road, there would seem to be little reason to build more.

Dawson presented the Board with a petition signed by 185 customers opposing the sale. It is believed that many other citizens expressed their opposition to the sale privately to their supervisors.

Owners of residential properties that adjoin the site reiterated concerns about adequate buffering to mitigate the impact of commercial uses close to occupied homes that were made during the rezoning process. Some expressed skepticism that a line of bushes would obscure headlights from late night trips through an all-night pharmacy’s drive in window.

Several speakers contended that the advent of any “big box” entity will destroy the small town ambience of Courthouse Village and drive out the “mom and pop” businesses that give it character.

The supervisors declared that government should not play a role competition among businesses to pick winners and losers. “Whatever locates on that property will be competing with someone,” District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. observed.
In addition to the sale proceeds, the land will go on the tax rolls and generate business revenue. The supervisors pledged to continue to be customers of Dawson’s Pharmacy.

Ryan said that the letter of intent incudes up to 240 days of “due diligence” for the buyer to take a closer look at the proposal during which matters could be revealed to prevent the sale from closing.

“This is a tough one,” said Ken Peterson, District 5. “People involved cannot appreciate enough the things that small business does for their neighbors.”

Ned Creasey, District 3, moved to approve the matter contending it was the best for the county. He also promised to support Dawson. The vote to approve was unanimous.


Earlier in the evening, the supervisors seemed to go out of their way to accommodate Donna Reynolds, who has been using her property west of Hadensville as an event venue for several years. She apparently never bothered to obtain a business license or zoning to operate a place of public assembly. Her property is also in land use. (This was likely a precipitating factor in the new policy requiring those with property in land use to recertify eligibility each year.)

Reynolds hosts events in an existing barn, tent, and other outdoor spaces. According to remarks made during the public hearing by residents of the nearby Shelton Ridge community, loud music, noise, and sometimes fireworks, regularly accompanied events.
Reynolds retained a sound engineer to advise on mitigating the noise. Measures to be taken include prohibiting subwoofers, responsible for the annoying visceral “boom boom,” and aiming music played in the tent toward Broad Street Road until the end of 2016. Early in the new year, Reynolds will build a larger sound proof barn where future activities will take place indoors.

Other restrictions, consistent with those imposed on other local event venues like Dover Hall and the Adams International School, require licensed bar tenders to encourage responsible alcohol consumption, and uniformed security when event with music and alcohol service exceeds a specified threshold.

The conditional use permit granted by the supervisors (3-2 with Creasey and Board Chair Bob Minnick, District 4, in dissent) expires on June 30, 2017. This should give Reynolds adequate time to get the new barn built and hold a few events to see if it eliminates the noise issues. County policy allows businesses not in compliance with county code to continue operations while they work through their issues.

There are no guarantees that the county will grant Reynolds a CUP extension at that time. The staff report said that Reynolds’ enterprise offers little economic benefit to the county.

Susan Lascolette District 1 contended that people should have the right to use their land as they see fit without harming the neighbors.

Rural economic development is supposed to allow people realize value from their land without subdividing it. All too often, little is done to mitigate the negative impact of these businesses on neighboring homeowners who were there first.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

CTE goes to college


Kenny Bouwens and devices that "will change the world."

On Wednesday, September 28, members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Program at the University of Richmond got a glimpse of the excellence of Goochland’s Career and Technical Education Program.

An overview of 3D printing was presented by Kenneth “Kenny” Bouwens, who teaches video, photography, and engineering at Goochland High School. He was named by the Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association as its 2016 their annual High School Teacher of the Year. Bouwens is graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where he earned a master’s degree in technology education. He beginning his seventh year as a public educator and his third year with Goochland County Public Schools.
Osher students ask lots of questions of Kenny Bouwens (in tie)

Bouwens translated a technology that seems like magic to those who went to high school in the last century into simple terms. “Basically, a 3D printer is a hot glue gun on a track that moves it back and forth over a base.”

Software slices the finished object into layers that are translated into instructions for each pass of the glue gun over the base. “The printer head moves left and right, front to back, and up and down in basic applications,” explained Bouwens.

He brought two GCPS printers for the demonstration. As he spoke, the printer head of the smaller unit dutifully applied layer upon layer of a plastic filament on the base. After about 38 minutes, it stopped having printed a circular gizmo with free moving “ball bearings” inside a lip. (See photo.)

Applications of the technology are limited only by the imagination, said Bouwens. Currently, 3D printing creates buildings from cement; confections from molten chocolate; auto parts from carbon fiber; and, perhaps most amazing of all, custom made replacement body parts like ears and prosthetic limbs from medical grade plastic.

Some 3D printers come with software for their own parts, making them self-replicating. Thingiverse.com offers downloadable software for an amazing array of stuff. Computer aided design (CAD) software makes 3D printing work. Downloadable programs are generally not editable.

Filament, the stuff that is melted to create the finished product comes in many forms. A recyclable plastic is the least expensive. Some printers have more than one head that can use different filaments to create an end product. Objects with protrusions use dissolvable support material. Bouwens said that the units do not draw a great deal of current and have HEPA filters to control fumes.

Some units have cameras that are used for remote monitoring of printing operations that can take more than a day to complete.
Designs for 3D projects may begin with drawings or scans of physical objects that can “print” exact replicas, for perfectly fitting artificial limbs. Scanning software is available for iPads.

“The reality check is that 3d printing costs more than conventional manufacturing and is slower,” said Bowens. But, it is a less expensive way to make a prototype that can be tweaked before manufacture on a large scale, or a single object.”

Speaking to an audience that included many grandparents, Bouwens contended that a simple 3D printer, which costs about the same as a Play Station, is a more educational gift. “Give your grandchildren one of these and they can change the world,” he said.

Bruce Watson, Director of CTE, who just happens to be married to Peggy Watson, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, celebrated Goochland’s great CTE program. Goochland students, he explained use 3D printing technology in the robotics program to create prototype parts to see if they fit. If so, they are fabricated from metal, if not, back to the proverbial drawing board.

Architecture students design simple houses that they then 3D print to bring their work to life. “We are giving our students skills to prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet,” Watson said.

“And they’re doing this in Goochland?” an Osher member was heard to ask. Yes, we are!



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Greener pastures, where men and horses save each other





The barn is home to Greener Pastures

The beautiful horses you see running on the south side of Rt. 6 just west of Crozier are retired thoroughbreds—who chased each other around race tracks in former lives. Thanks to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) these horses are enjoying retirement saved from a trip to what used to be called “the glue factory”.

If you look a little closer, you’ll notice that the fence that keeps the horses out of the road is the same fence that surrounds the James River Work Center, part of the Virginia Department of Corrections, a prison.

The Second Chances program of the James River chapter of the TRF provides a place for retired race horses to live happily ever after, be it in a new a forever home, or at JRTRF and gives offenders the opportunity to learn new skills—including equine care; anatomy, physiology; farm management; and personal discipline—so they can be productive citizens when their sentence is completed. Some become certified in the nationally acclaimed “Groom Elite” program. Participants must apply to join the program and complete an interview process.
Offenders learn useful equine care skills.

On September 18, the JRTRF held an open barn to celebrate the program. Visitors saw happy, well cared for horses and their caregivers enjoying each other’s company. One offender declared that he has “the best job in DOC” while explaining his duties to open barn visitors. He is learning farrier skills and hopes to pursue that line of work after release. The approximately 30 horses in the program are rotated into the barn for grooming and other care on a regular basis. The rest of the time, they roam free on the property.

The horses in the barn included Covert Action, grandson of Virginia’s own triple crown winner Secretariat. Each equine put on a “cute horse act” in hopes of getting treats. They were all quite successful.
Give a horse a treat

Secretariat's grandson, Covert Action

Horses may be adopted for performance work; pleasure riding; or pasture mates to act as companions for other horses. As adopted horses leave the JRTRF, new spots for retirees open up. Visit http://www.trfinc.org/adopt-a-horse/ for details.
Visit http://www.jamesriverhorses.com/ and be sure to watch the video clip.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Follow the money



Emergency Communications center under construction


You may have noticed the new communications towers going up around the county or the building under construction behind the Sheriff's Office. They are part of a massive upgrade of Goochland County's emergency communications capabilities mandated by the Federal Government. The price tag for the project, which is expected to be completed in the next year, is approximately $10 million. Initial costs were paid for out of the General Fund.

While there is enough money in the county coffers to pay for the entire project, finance staff and consultants recommended borrowing to pay for the project to avoid depleting reserves and take advantage of the current favorable borrowing climate.

Since taking office in 2012, this Board has spent money carefully, operating on a pay as you go basis to fund smaller projects in the capital improvement plan, which addresses items that have a relatively long useful life and cost more than $50,000.

As part of the overhaul of county finances, the Board of Supervisors adopted policies in 2015 to establish thresholds to prevent the county from getting in over its head. *

A resolution outlining parameters for a lease purchase strategy suggested by staff and financial advisors was adopted by the supervisors at their September 6 meeting following a public hearing, at which no one spoke. County Administrator John Budesky, Board Chair Bob Minnick, and Vice Chair Ned Creasey were tapped to negotiate the final details.

Under the proposed financing strategy, a third party will lease the land from the county and lease it back to the county for an amount to be paid out of the annual budget. This does not create indebtedness for the county. (See the Board packet on the county website goochland.va.us for the documents, and the live stream of the presentation.)

Virginia localities may not issue bonds without a referendum, explained the county's bond counsel, George L. Scruggs, Jr. of Kutak Rock LLC. They may, however, borrow via lease purchase. Scruggs said that vendors, in this case banks, which responded to the county’s request for proposals, view these situations as sound investments because localities are not likely to default on the debt.

This is a legal and reasonable way for the county to finance the communications project, even though it seems a bit convoluted. Although the duration of the arrangement is not expected to exceed 15 years and the interest rate to be no more than 1.93 percent, the resolution uses “not more than” language to give negotiators both flexibility and limits.

Ken Peterson, District 5, whose private sector finance expertise helped the county avoid the fiscal cliff of the TCSD debt, was assured that communications equipment with a relatively short useful life, is funded with shorter term instruments, the remainder, longer term. The lease may be paid off at par value after seven years, or at a 1.03 percent penalty before then.

Many GOMM posts have lauded the Goochland Board of Supervisors for its prudent and open oversight of public funds. Transparency in money matters keeps everyone honest. It also provides the opportunity for citizens to learn how their tax dollars are spent, but only if they pay attention.


*
" Net debt as a percentage of estimated market value of taxable property should not exceed 2.5%. Net debt is to include general obligation, capital leases, and revenue bonds.
•The ratio of debt service expenditures as a percent of total general fund expenditures (including transfers to other funds) should not exceed 12%. While 12% is the ceiling, the capital improvement plan is prepared using a target of no more than 10% of debt service to expenditures.

Fund Balance Ratios
•Unassigned fund balance at the close of each fiscal year should be at least 20% of the total annual adopted general fund budget of the subsequent fiscal year, plus the non-local portion of the school operating fund budget.
•The County will maintain a Revenue Stabilization Reserve of at least 1% of the total annual adopted general fund budget of the subsequent fiscal year, plus the non-local portion of the school operating fund budget"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On a perfect Tuesday morning

On a perfect Tuesday morning, fifteen years ago today, nearly 3,000 people were assassinated by agents of evil in Virginia, New York, and a Pennsylvania field. Their only crime was going about their daily business. Our word stopped for days as details about the horrific attacks came to light. We all remember what we were doing when we heard the incomprehensible news.

More than 400 law enforcement officers (LEOs) and first responders—who see us at our worst and give us their best—died running toward, not away, from danger. We can never forget the images of mounds of mangled emergency apparatus, nor the lines of waiting ambulances that were never needed. The dirge of funereal bagpipes became the music of our sorrow.

We mourned with a single heart, heedless of color, creed, or national origin, crying together for the lost lives, and the innocence of our country. Old Glory was everywhere and treated with love. We still cannot fathom the hate that inspired Islamic terrorists to carry out these vile acts.

Our sons and daughters joined our all-volunteer military to vanquish an elusive but lethal enemy. We honor their service and sacrifice—even Boomers who spit on those returning from Viet Nam found their manners—but less than one half of one percent of our population wears the uniform.

We cried and eventually returned to a new normal, refusing to cower in fear, yet anxiously looking over our shoulders.
America today is a different place.

The war to vanquish those who would do us harm has dragged on for most of a generation with no real end in sight. Our kids come home with dreadful wounds, visible and hidden to be slighted by a badly broken Veteran’s Administration.

The LEOs we honored and respected after 9/11 are now, in some quarters, fair game for the disenchanted. We are more divided than ever.

We thought taking the fight “to them” would protect our homeland. Then came attacks at Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando that were echoed in Europe. We endure intrusive airport security screenings by TSA agents who all seem to be foreigners, and pray that any bad guys are on another flight. Some argue the remedy for the violence is to ban guns, others to arm citizens to defend themselves.

We can’t help wonder if that woman in the burka at the grocery story is buying food for her children, or cooking for a local terror cell. We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, to believe that there is good in all people, but justifiably fear being victimized for our generosity.

Free speech, one of the bedrocks of American culture, has come under attack on college campuses, where all points of view used to be welcome. For people to govern themselves—the revolutionary notion that set American apart from the rest of the world—differing, sometimes distressing, viewpoints must be shared and discussed to arrive at consensus. Dictatorships crush dissent, democracies embrace it and that must not change.

We remember the devastation at the Pentagon and in lower Manhattan though it has been repaired and rebuilt. The field in Pennsylvania will forever honor the souls who rest there.

America has found its way back from dark times before and we will again. God bless America.