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.

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