Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Got poppies?

Poppies are the symbol of remembrance

Next Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day. This holiday, which has come to mark the start of summer, is set aside to remember, and honor, those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we hold dear.

Goochland American Legion Post 215 will sponsor a Memorial Day observance on the Courthouse Green to commemorate those who went to war and did not come home. The event begins at 10 a.m. Bring a chair and your kids and grandkids. Teach them, by example, how to respect the flag and national anthem.

Boy Scouts from Troop 710 will lead a Children’s Parade which is open to all children under 12, no registration necessary. The parade will march around the Green to patriotic music played by the Henrico Concert Band. They will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Elizabeth Kugel will sing the National Anthem.

Guest speaker this year is Major Mike Petruzziello from the Goochland High School MCJROTC program. The Ceremony is highlighted with military precision by the MCJROTC Honor Guard, Firing Detail by the Marine Corps League Honor Guard and military displays by veterans.

The Historical Society will open its museum; the Stone Jail will be visible from the windows.
Post 215 Auxiliary members, assisted this year by the Girls State candidates Erin Watcher, Sydney Hawk, Askia Nealy, Lauren Creasey, and Chelsey Stout, will be present with American Flags and the red poppies. Donations for the poppies go towards the veteran and military assistance programs.

The use of poppies as the symbol of remembrance of our war dead, harkens back to the end of World War I, almost a century ago. Soldiers who survived “the war to end all wars” brought home tales of wild red poppies sprouting from blood-soaked battle fields of Europe. Moina Michael of Atlanta, moved by the poem In Flanders Field, bought a bunch of poppies in November, 1918 ad handed them out to businessmen, asking them to wear the flowers in remembrance of those who died. She was instrumental in adoption of the poppy as the symbol of sacrifice.

Moina Michael distributed poppies in 1918 to honor those killed in World War I

According to alaforveterans.org , American Legion Auxiliary members raised more than $5.5 million last year from poppy donations, used exclusively to support active-duty military, veterans and their families through the Auxiliary’s outreach program services. Veterans handcraft the flowers with assistance from unpaid volunteers.

Legion Auxiliary members do not sell poppies – they “distribute” them, with a request that the person receiving the poppy make a donation to the poppy fund to support their veteran outreach programs.

Dig deep to let our veterans know you care and remember those who will never come home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pray for Bel Mead

Bel Mead the unique 2,200 plus acre former plantation on the James River in Powhatan, site of schools that educated African America children from 1890 to the 1970’s, could use a generous donation too. However, since the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS) decided in late April to sell the place and dissolve Francis Emma, Inc, the non-profit entity that pursued grants and other funds, there is no formal entity to receive contributions. 

The intrepid group of SBS nuns who came to the Powhatan property about a decade ago and engaged with many group in the local community to revitalize BelMead, were blindsided and heartbroken by the announcement. Leaders of the  SBS congregation are believed to have retained the firm of  Plante Moran REIA to dispose of both its mother house in Pennsylvania and Bel Mead before the public announcement.

On Saturday, May 14, a press conference was held on the lawn behind the gracious Bel Mead antebellum mansion as the intrepid nuns, who have worked tirelessly to repurpose the property for a 21st century mission, circled their wagons. Hundreds of Bel Mead supporters, young and old, black and white, many on horseback, turned out to show their support.

Speakers were long on emotion--it's impossible to not love the place--but short on facts. The immediate goal is to  get at least 2,500 signatures on a petition asking the SBS leadership for more time to craft a plan to save Bel Mead from either development or sale to an owner who would make it a private enclave.

Speculation was rife. Some supporters believed Bel Mead would be snatched up by a developer and subdivided. Given its remote location and a generous supply of more accessible large new homes languishing on the market, that seems unlikely. According to Powhatan County land records,the assessed valuation is around $4 million. It would seem reasonable that SBS would  expect to realize more than that at sale. That's before any improvements a buyer might want to make.

Bel Mead is indeed a magical place. Though not in Goochland, it lies on the low side of the James  River in full view of homes on the north shore. It is also remote. The lane that leads from the main road,itself narrow and winding, to the mansion and stables, travels alongside a bold creek and through thick woods and wetlands before opening into meadow. Before you reach the mansion and stables, you pass a slave cemetery where only anonymous white crosses mark the graves of the slaves that built Bel Mead and worked the land.

Powhatan Supervisor Carson Tucker, whose district includes BelMead, said it was no mistake he was dressed in black. He characterized  Bel Mead as a capsule of agriculture in American history on the shore of the James River. From the Monacan Indians through days of plantation and slavery to the redemption represented by the St. Francis de Sales School for girls and St. Emma military academy funded by St.Katherine Drexel, to it current  environmental initiatives, BelMead is sacred ground.
The president of the equestrian group said that "the land itself breathes, and has a pulse. You can almost hear the people from the past speaking."

Alumna Donna McLain said that her fellow graduates are testament to the rich legacy of the site. "It looks different, but it's still here," she said of the place that prepared more than 15,000 black students to take their place in the world.

Twenty years ago, one speaker said, the state was looking for land to use as a state park on the James River, Bel Mead was the top target. The SBS leadership refused, contending that that it still had a mission there.

Yet,in the past 10 years, new life has been breathed into Bel Mead. A stable leases facilities on the property. About 1,000 acres have been  put into a historical easement. Sustainable agricultural practices are used to raise crops on the land. A museum interprets the cultural history. Spiritual and environmental missions enrich those who visit.

Although a workable, sustainable plan was in place to raise funds, secure grants, meeting interim goals, SBS leaders seem to have washed their hands of Bel Mead. Indeed, the terse wording of the announcement that Bel Mead will be sold indicates little interest in the work done there or its potential.

In a perfect world, a philanthropist with deep pockets  might buy Bel Mead and work with the many groups that love the place to continue and expand its current purposes. But wishing doesn't make it so. However, input from many people might gain some time for Bel Mead.

Visit francisemma.org for more information about Bel Meade and for a link to the petition.

Bel Mead supporters, some on horseback, listen to pleas to save it from sale.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Using the land

The notion of property rights is complicated. On the one hand, we all want total control over our land, but seem to also want a say in what our neighbors do with their property. It’s local government’s job to decide what is fair to both sides.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 3, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors held public hearings on various land use issues.
Unanimous approval as given to applications to rezone and allow conditional uses for approximately 18 acres on the north side of Broad Street Road just east of Rt. 288. Lawrence Page, a county resident, plans to open an Audi dealership here and develop the entire site with other commercial uses that could include restaurants and a hotel.

Due to the non-traditional architecture of the dealership, which features Audi corporate branding architectural elements, the structure received design review approval before rezoning. One of the major points of contention between Audi and the Centerville overlay standards was the extensive use of metal on the building fa├žade. The metal in question is an aluminum matrix that resembles a lace veil and gives texture to the exterior.

This aluminum lattice will grace the exterior of the Audi dealership

Page is to be commended for his care and foresight in assembling a number of parcels into an elegant visual gateway statement for the county. In addition to extensive landscaping on the Audi site, Page will plant trees in the Broad Street Road median.
The only fly in this ointment is the refusal of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—to sell the parcel it owns on Broad Street Road and Rt. 288 to Page. VDOT claims it plans to build a park-and- ride lot there. This area is already the most perilous intersection in the county and will get worse when traffic from nearby commercial and residential projects under construction is added to the mix. A better solution would be to swap parcels with Page to move the park-and-ride well off of Broad Street to be accessed by the signalized boulevard that will be the sole access to the Page project.

Page took great pains to move parking lots away from Broad Street Road to soften the Audi dealership. Yet, VDOT, which is exempt from any overlay or other local input on its property, will slap a basic parking lot right next to the road, with minimal landscaping and ugly signage. There has been a park-and-ride on Ashland Road just north of I64 for years; why do we need another one?

This is no place for a park-and-ride.

The supervisors also renewed a conditional use permit to (CUP)operate an office out of a three car garage on a parcel that runs between Three Chopt and Broad Street Roads west of Centerville. The original CUP was issued in 2001. There have been no issues and the renewal runs for a period of 20 years.

A CUP application filed by Second Union Baptist Church was unanimously approved. Calvin Hopkins, a church member and pillar of the community who was inducted into the Parks and Rec Wall of Fame at a dinner ceremony prior to the evening meeting, spoke on behalf of the application. Second Union, he said, has been an important part of the community since it a was founded in 1865. The church moved to its current location on Hadensvile-Fife Road in 1880. It is home to the Second Union Rosenwald School (http://www.secondunionrosenwaldschool.org/) museum, a valuable cultural resource. A CUP was required because the planned expansion will increase the size of the church to more than ten thousand square feet. The supervisors wished the congregation well in its next centuries of service.

Turning from a venerable congregation to the future, the Board approved a CUP to permit a new kind of crop, photovoltaic (solar) panels, to be planted on no more than 35 of 114 acres of land near the confluence of Shannon Hill, Broad Street, and Martin Roads in the northwestern part of the county.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Martin Solar Center, and Coronal Development Services of Charlottesville, Kyle West painted a compelling picture of the future of power generation.

The acreage where the photovoltaic panels will be deployed, currently in land use, will be taxed at assessed valuation generating approximately $6,000 in rollback tax. West said that the panels are taxable as personal property, rather than capital improvements. He said that at the conclusion of its expected 25-year life, the equipment will be removed and the land restored to its original condition.

Ken Peterson, District 5, asked about the cost of removal and legal obligation to honor the removal agreement. West said that ultimately, the cost would be borne by an unnamed Fortune 500 corporation that would be holding entity for the panels. The initial cost is $8 million, which takes about seven years of operation before generating a return on investment.

Susan Lascolette, District 1 asked about the impact of the panels on nearby homes. West said the panels have no adverse impact on bees and that Coronal will comply with buffer and landscape requirements to adequately screen the panels. West said that recently timbered land adjacent to the solar farm has been replanted in young pines.

Power generated by the panels, which absorb rather than reflect light, will be transmitted to a nearby substation of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. West contended that this is an innocuous, benign, renewable power source whose price will be stable for the duration of the contract, unlike fossil fuels, whose price is governed by unpredictable market forces. The panels will be fixed and, said West, have little impact on the permeability of the soil. West estimated that the electricity generated by the facility, five megawatts, could power about 800 homes for a year.

Principal Planner Tom Coleman explained that the visual impact on nearby homes was the main concern expressed by neighbors at community meetings. Martin Solar proffered installation of a fence and a double row of evergreens to screen the facility.
Martin Road, from Shannon Hill Road to the project entrance, will be improved to VDOT standards at a cost of approximately $45,000. The project, according to West, will generate some temporary construction jobs.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

May Board of Supervisors' meeting highlights

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday, May 3 to attend to routine business, going into closed session in the afternoon to discuss an economic development matter.

The Board adjourned at the end of the evening until May 4 for another closed session to be held at the Kinloch Golf Club for the purpose of discussion, interviewing, and consideration of candidates for the position of county administrator. Finding the right person to be Goochland’s chief administrative officer is a momentous task. The positive benefits of having a county administrator who is part of and engaged with the community cannot be overstated; the board is wise to take its time.

Speaking of engaged with the community, Wayne Dementi, who has his finger in many worthwhile pies in the county, presented an update on the Courthouse Green project. The Goochland Historical Society is partnering with the county to renovate the old stone jail; create a visitor’s center and interpretive trail on the venerable lawn in front of our historic courthouse. The estimated cost of the project is $400,000, 87 percent of which has been raised to date by a capital campaign orchestrated by the GHS.

The County agreed to chip in $100,000. The GHS is selling two sizes of commemorative bricks. Go to Goochlandhistory.org and click on Courthouse Green project for additional information. Dementi said that a ribbon cutting for the restored jail is anticipated on September 11, Patriot’s Day.

The intrepid Jonathan Lyle, who in addition to being a Director of the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District, is a Director for Virginia Highway Media. He announced that May 16 is the start of National Travel and Tourism Week. Goochland, said Lyle, offers opportunities including soccer at West Creek; breweries; agritourism; and wineries to attract visitors. Every dollar spent on tourism-related promotion, generates five dollars in revenues for localities and generates jobs. Visitors enjoy what a place has to offer, spend their money and educate their children and grow old elsewhere. Whatever you want to do on vacation, Lyle contended, you can do in Virginia.

The awards keep piling up.

Once again, the county received the Government Finance Officers Association award for the Certified Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for FY 2015. This is the third consecutive year that the county earned this recognition. According to John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Finance, this was truly a team effort thanks to the hard work of Myrtis Quarles and Barbara Horlacher of the Finance Department and Debbie White Director of Finance for Goochland Schools. This report is available on the county website.

Tucker Park at Maidens Crossing received a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for its efforts in improving access to the James River and establishment of an outdoor classroom. The classroom was funded entirely by grants from Dominion Resources and the CarMax Cares Foundation. Volunteers, staff, and members of the Friends of Goochland Parks collaborated to make these improvements possible.

The Board authorized advertisement for public hearings to be held at its June 7 meeting. One will address the addition of two parcels of land north of Board Street Road and east of Rt. 288 to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. The value of this property is approximately $1.5 million. The other hearing will correct what Interim County Administrator Norman Sales described as a “software glitch” that inadvertently omitted the adoption of commercial water rates during last month’s budget adoption. These rates, which become effective July 1, are reflected in the adopted budget.

Environmental Planner Leigh Dunn presented an update on the Centerville streetscape plan. Last year, the supervisors appropriated $100,000 in the capital improvement plan for improvements to the Broad Street Road corridor with the goal of harmonizing development and providing an identity that sets the Centerville Village apart from Short Pump. Retained by the county last year, the landscape architecture firm of LDPA from Charlottesville prepared some streetscape options. Following two meetings with stakeholders, the plan was refined to include cobblestone “nose” accents for the medians; landscaped signage reflecting community rather than “big box” scale, and improvements at the St. Mathews Lane/Hockett Road intersection. Installation of these elements would use up the remainder of the allocated funds and is expected to be completed in the fall.

Paul Drumwright discussed legislative activity in the 2016 session of the Virginia General Assembly.

A request that the state fund an independent study of the effects of long term land application of biosolids and industrial residuals will be initially addressed by a JLARC study over two-year period. Lee Ware, 65th District delegate, who represents western Goochland worked closely with the county on this and co-sponsored the successful bill HJ120.

Measures to increase oversight of application; buffers; nutrient management plans; and mandated disclosure of application went nowhere.

A bit more money was made available to assist private sector construction of broadband infrastructure in areas presently unserved.
Once again efforts to reimburse localities for the expense of partisan primaries and the expenses of the general registrar and electoral board died aborning.

Efforts to add drive in theaters to the list of acceptable sites for tourist oriented directional signs is ongoing. The Goochland Drive In, one of the county’s unique establishments, would benefit from this.

Last fall, the county supported the elimination or significant restructuring of the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process, which determines the size and location of certain medical facilities. Several bills addressing the matter in both chambers of the General Assembly were continued to the 2017 session.

Perhaps the legislation of most immediate concern to the supervisors was SB549, which was signed into law by the governor. It hobbles the ability of localities to use proffers to mitigate the impact of land rezoning. This applies to rezoning applications filed after July 1, 2016. Staff is evaluating how this will change existing policies.

Goochland has had a cash proffer policy in place for some time. Revenues generated from this policy has been used to complete modest capital improvements in lieu of incurring additional debt.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Right here in River City

Meredith Willson’s iconic musical about swindlers, love, and redemption in small town USA came to life over the weekend in the Goochland High School auditorium. Our amazing drama department under the direction of Neil Burch staged a fabulous performance of The Music Man.

The acting, singing, sets, choreography—especially “Shipoopi,” the complicated and tricky number involving scores of dancers skipping over tables while not colliding with each other—were magnificent. Costumes were evocative of the play’s setting, notably the hilarious millinery sported by the ladies of River City and the outlandish, but appropriate, headgear for their dance troupe.

Assembling and organizing the large cast—Burch explained that some of the actors were not GHS students but from all of five county schools—was a formidable task well executed. Music was provided by an orchestra including adult community members under the direction of the indomitable Jay Sykes.

Lead actors, Christian Robinson as Harold Hill and Heather Carter as Marian (the librarian) Paroo, gave outstanding performances. They were, however, the peak of a very large iceberg formed of untold hours of group rehearsal and individual practice.

The “Pick a little ladies” slapstick delivery of their material was hilarious. Four-part harmony, as portrayed by the members of the school board AKA the Barbershop Quartet, never sounded better.

Whether or not anyone involved in this production pursues a career in theater, they all learned the importance of teamwork. A complicated production like The Music Man has many “moving parts,” all of which required flawless articulation for it to work. And work it did to the delight of three packed houses.

Burch thanked all involved including parent and staff volunteers. Michael Newman, GHS principal who is retiring at the end of the school year, was presented with a framed production poster.

This is a great way for seniors to end their high school career and a benchmark for future productions. Once again, Goochland Schools make us proud!