Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On the cusp of summer

Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors met for its regular monthly session on June 7 to address a routine agenda. There was no mention of selection a successor to County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson, who retired at the end of March. Not to worry, county government remains on course thanks to the steady hand of County Attorney Norman Sales, acting as interim county administrator, on the tiller.

A fatal motor vehicle wreck at the intersection of Fairgrounds and Broad Street Roads had some citizens clamoring for a lowered speed limit or traffic signal from the Board. Marshall Winn, VDOT representative, said that a speed study had been performed on the roads in question last year that upheld the 55 MPH speed limit. He said that he requested another study. Sales said that the county was preparing a letter to VDOT asking that traffic calming devices, such as rumble strips, or perhaps pavement striping, be deployed to improve safety.

Everyone needs to exercise great care while traveling on county roads. The right to drive carries with it the responsibility to do so in a safe and courteous manner.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 said that he has also receive phone calls about dangerous conditions at the intersection of Davis Mill and Hadensville-Fife Roads.

The Department of Community Development, which includes planning and zoning and permitting, will temporarily move to Central High School on Dogtown Road during renovation of its space in the administration building is renovated. The duration of the relocation is expected to be about six months. These offices will be closed on Friday, June 10 and should be back open on Monday at Central High School.

Assumptions made about space allocation when the “old” high school was morphed into the administration building a decade or so ago, have changed. The new space will include a badly needed conference room and better flow for customer service.

The cost of the renovations is expected to be about $625,000 including furniture and technology upgrades. This is somewhat higher than the $500,000 “placeholder” guesstimate made a few years back. In the meantime, some of that amount was moved to cover design costs for the new animal shelter. In the interim, construction costs have risen as the economy strengthens.

Sales said that Goochland did great job on its Relay for Life event even though inclement weather moved it to the high school gym on the weekend of May 21. He commended Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay for organizing and leading the county administration team. MacKay walked 22 miles earning him the nickname “Iron Man”. The Goochland event raised more than $40,000 for the American Cancer Society.

A writ of election was approved to appoint D. Michael Caudill, currently serving as Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney to serve as Commonwealth’s Attorney to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of incumbent, Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. effective June 30. Stokes has been appointed District Court Judge. It is expected that the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney will be on the November ballot. Caudill will serve, with the Court’s consent, until the voters fill the vacancy.

Authorization to advertise a proposed ordinance to require all property owners that participate in the land use taxation program to verify their eligibility each year generated an interesting discussion. Jonathan Lyle, a director of the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District and a farmer advocate, contended that the proposed ordinance is yet another mechanism to discourage agriculture in the county. Lyle said that the number of farms in Goochland is declining and that you can’t have rural character without farms. The proposed ordinance would require everyone with property in land use, taxed by the acre at rates set by the state, to submit a simple from each year by December 5 to remain in the program. Those who fail to comply, according to the proposed ordinance, would have their land taxed a fair market value.

Ken Peterson, District 5 asked about the purpose of the ordinance. According to assessor Mary Ann Davis, existing county records on land use are incomplete. Those with property in land use would receive ample time and notice to comply. In a parcel is taken out of land use, the owner may reapply if the use of the eland has not changed.

The proposed ordinance would not impose the rollback penalty—fair market taxes for the five years preceding the change—unless the use of the land is different. There are approximately 2,000 parcels in land use in Goochland, the ordinance seeks to verify the eligibility of the participants.

Earlier this year, H. Watkins Ellerson, a retired attorney with considerable land use experience, contended that Goochland should eliminate land use taxation because it removes approximately $4 million from tax revenues. Ellerson said that of the 1977 parcels in land use 379 receive 61 percent of the tax benefits. He said that “hobby farmers” who intentionally operate their farms at a loss to write off income from other sources are not real farmers and should not be able to benefit from land use. Ellerson said that land use taxation is not the best way to subsidize legitimate farmers and urged the supervisors to take a hard look at the entire program.
A public hearing on this ordinance will be held on July 5.

John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Finance, reported that revenues are expected to exceed expenditures for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The projected year end reserve is approximately $6 million.

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