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(, 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:

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 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 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, 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.