Sunday, June 18, 2017

In the line of duty


Last week’s shootings at a ball field in Northern Virginia remind us of the danger that our law enforcement officers (LEOs) can encounter in the most innocent of settings.

The amazing people who work in public safety, LEOs, fire-rescue providers, and animal control officers, make it possible for us to go about our daily lives with little thought to “what if?” Our LEOs, who pin targets over their hearts before going to work, seem especially vulnerable these days.

Clearly, they don’t do what they do for the money, or even glory, but because they want to help people. We owe them, at the very least, every possible support should they become injured on the job.

At their June 6 meeting, Goochland Supervisors revised county policy on worker’s compensation supplementation for deputies.

The revision, initiated by Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, was sparked by a county deputy, injured on the job, whose worker’s compensation benefits expired before the deputy was able to return to work. The result was an unexpectedly shrunken paycheck, which placed hardship on the deputy’s family.

After quite a bit of discussion, the Supervisors voted to adopt, as policy, as section of state law that permits sheriff’s deputies to use accrued leave to supplement worker’s compensation payments. This applies only to sworn officers.

Staff will report back to the Board within 60 days with cost analysis for extending this policy to all county employees, or just public services employees, whose jobs place them at greater risk of workplace injury.

An initial policy revision that included fire-rescue and animal control employees was rejected after Susan Lascolette, District 1, said it was discriminatory because it did not treat county employees the same. “I want to get to yes on this, but I believe that it is bad public policy to craft changes to remedy a specific situation.”

County Administrator John Budesky said that existing county worker’s compensation policy, which he followed, does not permit any employees to use accrued leave to supplement their payments.

Creasey contended that the county spends a great deal of money training public safety employees and they should be made whole if injured on the job.

Director of Human Resources Kelly Parrish said that public safety employees are treated differently, citing the Line of Duty Act, and have greater difficulty obtaining supplemental insurance due to the nature of their work. Creating light duty assignments as transition between injury and regular work tasks for them is also difficult.

Creasey said he would favor extending the supplement option to all county employees, contending that there have been few on the job injuries and that the cost would be manageable.

Budesky said that the county’s worker’s comp premiums are experience-based on the previous three years. He also said that the county’s insurers advised against expanding supplementation.

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew contended that state law is clear on the matter, and the deputy in question will be made whole.

As adopted, the new policy will address the pending situation. The supervisors will revisit the matter in the next two months with an eye toward adopting a more comprehensive policy.

During a budget presentation earlier this year, Parrish said that the county’s most expensive assets, its employees, walk out the door every night and it’s administration’s job to get them back the next morning. Finding a way to help employees injured at work pay their bills until they are fit for duty is a big part of that notion.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

In the weeds



Had any of the candidates seeking nomination to represent the 56th District in the Virginia General Assembly attended the Tuesday, June 5 meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors, they would have gotten a taste for the wide range of issues addressed by state legislators.

At a June 3 forum (see GOMM Choices) most of the hopefuls touted their adherence to their party’s principles. It would be interesting to ask how a conservative, liberal, or progressive would apply those principles during a discussion of changing state law to permit localities to designate running bamboo as nuisance vegetation, or the merits of lifetime dog licenses.

Then, there is the proffer legislation enacted during the 2016 session, that illustrates the quip “legislate in haste, repent at leisure” that left localities like Goochland, scratching their head about zoning issues.

Goochland County Attorney Tara McGee presented a proposal to amend the county proffer policy. She contended that the existing proffer policy does not align as much as it should with the proffer legislation passed during the 2016 General Assembly session.

The proposal recommends that each developer, on a case by case basis, provide a detailed impact statement outlining how their project will impact county services and infrastructure and what remedies they will offer to mitigate those burdens. The Board will no longer accept a set dollar amount.

Before July 1, 2016, Goochland had a cash proffer policy that allowed developers to pay a specific amount per home—business projects were never subject to the cash proffer policy—payable when the certificate of occupancy was issued. The amount of this cash proffer was calculated using a formula with specific amounts for schools, parks, road, and fire-rescue. At one time, library costs were part of the equation, but were removed. Proffer dollars may only be used to offset costs of capital projects. Ongoing expenses, such as salaries for county employees, are considered to be funded by increases in real estate tax revenues generated by development.

Susan Lascolette, District 1, confirmed that this policy is a work in progress. McGee said that the Board has the power to deny any project if it believes that the development will have a negative consequence on the county.

The Board unanimously approved this policy change. ( For details, please see pages 97-103 of the June 6 Board packet, available on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ under the Supervisors’ tab.)

McGee later presented legislative authorizations granted by the 2017 General Assembly session to localities to add to their local laws, if the governing board deems them appropriate. (Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that local government has only those powers specifically ceded to them by the General Assembly.)

The Board was asked to refer those items to specific departments for further review and consideration.

The lifetime dog license option— “While the dog owner is in Goochland and while the rabies vaccine is current”; up to $50 per animal versus the current annual fees of $10 for unspayed  or $5 for spayed—was referred for further consideration. Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2, asked that the feasibility of requiring animals to be microchipped also be investigated.

McGee explained that state law now allows localities to amend language addressing liens imposed to recover the demolition of unsafe structures or cutting excessively tall grass from “local” taxes to “real estate” taxes to obtain payment priority when the property is sold. Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, cast the sole vote in favor of moving this forward.

Creation of a registry for short term rentals, which are currently only permitted under Goochland ordinances with a conditional use permit, was not referred. Board members preferred to have the entire short term rental issue, like Air BnB, addressed in the ongoing comprehensive revision of zoning ordinances.

Exemption of property tax for the surviving spouse of officers killed in the line of duty was referred for additional study. Creasey asked that the addition of animal control officers be added to the study.

The option to increase transient occupancy tax on hotels and bed and breakfasts from the current two percent to five percent mandating the additional funds be dedicated to tourism was not referred. Creasey was alone in dissent.

Adding running bamboo, which is not a problem in Goochland, to the excessively high grass, was also rejected.

A mandatory change passed by the GA to clarify the definition of a dangerous dog, was set for a public hearing.

The usual VDOT reports and a public hearing on the Secondary Six Year Plan for rural rustic roads were also part of the Board agenda.

Let’s hope that whoever represents the 56th District in the Virginia General Assembly for the next two years realizes how their actions trickle down to the weeds in localities and be very aware of unintended consequences of ill-conceived and poorly drafted laws.

If you are so inclined, don’t forget to vote in Tuesday’s primary.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Time to make the donuts






Goochland Supervisors unanimously approved a conditional use permit for franchisee Luis Cabral, who lives in the Meadows, to add a drive through window to a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts in the Courthouse Commons Shopping Center on Fairground Road at their June 6 meeting.


Cabral explained that Dunkin’ Donuts was reluctant to grant a franchise in Courthouse Village, citing low population, unless it included a drive through window.


Denial of this application was recommended by the county planning commission at its May meeting for safety reasons.

Located at the north end of the strip shopping center, which is also home to Dawson’s Pharmacy and Food Lion, the drive through lanes share space with travel lanes used by large trucks that make deliveries to center tenants. The Planning Commissioners were not convinced by schematics presented at their public hearing that motorists waiting to pick up their daily caffeine could share space with big trucks.


At the Board hearing, shopping center owner Rick Palamar joined forces with Cabral to present a short video demonstrating that the proposal is feasible and safe. They outlined the proposed lanes and used a soft drink tractor trailer to negotiate the turn. It did so safely, giving a wide berth to vehicles parked where the menu board will be and in the “stacking” lane, where motorists wait their turn to order. All lanes will be clearly delineated with pavement markings supplemented by ample signage to direct customers in and out.

Photos of another Dunkin’ Donuts operated by Cabral just east of Innsbrook with even narrower lanes around a building were shown. Cabral said that there have been no traffic incidents of any kind there.

Palamar said that, during a typical week, between nine and 12 large trucks make deliveries behind the shopping center after the expected 7 to 9 a.m. morning rush at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Cabral plans to invest approximately $400 thousand on a total renovation of the space and expects to hire 15 full time and ten part-time employees.

This new tenant in the shopping center will bring new traffic for neighboring businesses and add another choice to folks seeking sustenance on the go.



Cabral explained that Dunkin’ Donuts was reluctant to grant a franchise in Courthouse Village, citing low population, unless it included a drive through window.


Denial of this application was recommended by the county planning commission at its May meeting for safety reasons.

Located at the north end of the strip shopping center, which is also home to Dawson’s Pharmacy and Food Lion, the drive through lanes share space with travel lanes used by large trucks that make deliveries to center tenants. The Planning Commissioners were not convinced by schematics presented at their public hearing that motorists waiting to pick up their daily caffeine could share space with big trucks.


At the Board hearing, shopping center owner Rick Palamar joined forces with Cabral to present a short video demonstrating that the proposal is feasible and safe. They outlined the proposed lanes and used a soft drink tractor trailer to negotiate the turn. It did so safely, giving a wide berth to vehicles parked where the menu board will be and in the “stacking” lane, where motorists wait their turn to order. All lanes will be clearly delineated with pavement markings supplemented by ample signage to direct customers in and out.

Photos of another Dunkin’ Donuts operated by Cabral just east of Innsbrook with even narrower lanes around a building were shown. Cabral said that there have been no traffic incidents of any kind there.

Palamar said that, during a typical week, between nine and 12 large trucks make deliveries behind the shopping center after the expected 7 to 9 a.m. morning rush at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Cabral plans to invest approximately $400 thousand on a total renovation of the space and expects to hire 15 full time and ten part-time employees.

This new tenant in the shopping center will bring new traffic for neighboring businesses and add another choice to folks seeking sustenance on the go.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Choice



Voters in the Virginia 56th General Assembly have a gracious plenty of candidate choices in the June 13 primary. This is a nice change from the last six years when republican Peter Farrell ran with no opposition. Farrell announced that he would step down earlier this year.

Two democrats: Lizzie M. Drucker-Basch, lizziedrucker@nophika.com, www.lizzieforvirginia.com; and Melissa M. Dart dart4delegate@gmail.com; and six republicans: Matt C. Pinsker, info@pinsker4delegate.com, pinsker4delegate.com; Graven W. Craig, gravencraig@yahoo.com, http://gravencraig.com; George S. Goodwin, oaksby@gmail.com; Surya P. Dhakar, dhakarfordelegate@gmail.com, http://dhakarfordelegate.com; John J. McGuire III, john164@mcguire56.com; and J. F. "Jay" Prendergast, jayprendergast4delegate56@gmail.com, jay4delegate56.org, threw their hats into the electoral ring.

On Saturday, June 3, the second tri-partisan candidate forum took place at Goochland High School. This is the second time that county democrats, republicans, and Tea Partiers collaborated to stage an event to help citizens become informed voters. This is yet another example of Goochlanders coming together for the good of all.

For three hours, those in attendance listened to each candidate explain their make their case for election.

Each of these people are to be commended for taking time from busy schedules to run for office. Gathering signatures to secure a place on the ballot(no dancing allowed) is just the first step. Raising money, getting endorsements, and meeting voters are all part of the process. We have them to thank for a choice at the polls.

Six of the eight—all but Louisa residents Craig and Goodwin—candidates live in western Henrico, which a few contended is just a “stone’s throw” from Goochland. Perhaps geographically, but maybe not attitudinally.

Most began their remarks by declaring fealty to their party’s philosophy, either conservative, liberal, or progressive, in broad terms that promise a better Commonwealth. They were gracious and cordial to each other.

The order in which the candidates spoke was determined by lot. Following are a few thumbnail impressions, please visit websites and Facebook pages for details. All candidates welcome email questions. Don’t be shy, they want your vote, make them earn it.

Matt Pinsker is a Henrico attorney who also serves in the Army Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. He teaches criminal justice and Homeland Security courses at VCU. He believes that illegal immigration is illegal and should not be tolerated.
(Some of Goochland’s large horse and other farms may employ illegal aliens who, some contend, live otherwise productive and blameless lives, and should not be penalized for their immigration status.)
Matt Pinsker

He supports law enforcement and authored a textbook used in police academies. Pinsker said that cable companies should be encouraged to expand in Goochland, he seemed unaware that Comcast is not inclined to do so and there are no other options. He believes that there are steps that can be taken to prevent opioid overdoses, but was a tad short on details.

Dr. Surya Dhakar is Henrico dentist whose policies include: abolition of the state income tax; removal of burdensome regulations on small business; and promotion of policies that build strong families and safe communities. He wants to end welfare and Medicaid abuse, which, he contended, is an incentive for children to have babies to get bigger checks. Though pro-life, he was short on details about how to discourage underage procreation.
Dr. Surya Dhakar

He said that Goochland is well run and said he would support making broadband a utility.

Melissa Dart, a Henrico health care administration professional, said she is a proud Progressive who supports Medicaid expansion in Virginia. She is concerned that dollars are being taken out of the public education budget. Dart would reverse the decline of Virginia’s ranking as a good place to do business by lowering the entry barriers for new businesses, which she vaguely described with standard buzzwords. Dart believes that “a broader conversation” is needed to address the illegal alien/sanctuary city issue. Melissa Dart


She believes that public/private partnerships are useful in broadband expansion, which is far more important than a means to play video games. Good education benefits everyone, she said. However, she seemed unaware of the current excellence of Goochland Schools, citing her endorsement by Bud Cothern, who was superintendent here about 15 years ago during the bad old days.

Lizzie Drucker-Basch runs a small business that deals with historic renovation. This provides her with first-hand knowledge of dealing with local government. She too supports the use of public private partnerships to expand broadband and find new ways to get this “educational and economic imperative” done. Lizzie Drucker-Basch

Drucker-Basch believes that the challenges facing the Commonwealth cannot get done in soundbites. “We have to focus on what we have in common, and how we get there,” she said. Drucker-Basch believes that Virginia does not spend nearly enough on education. She believes that teachers need the freedom to find new ways to engage children, energize the creativity of teachers, and not teach to the test. We’re pretty much doing that in Goochland.

George Goodwin of Louisa worked in the General Assembly with Tom Garrett, who was succeeded last January in the State Senate by Mark Peake. Goodwin contended that his legislative experience makes him the best choice to effectively represent Goochland in Richmond. George Goodwin


Goodwin was the first to mention that Virginia is a Dillion Rule state, which means that localities have only those powers ceded to them by the state. He said he knows how to identify unintended consequences of legislation, especially those that result in unfunded mandates that burden places like Goochland. Goodwin said that if elected, he will proposed legislation to fix the poorly drafted proffer law hurriedly passed two years ago that has thrown a monkey wrench into land use issues in many jurisdictions. He said that reducing the state workforce through attrition and combining overlapping agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Environmental Resources will save money.

John McGuire of Henrico is a former Navy SEAL, fittingly nicknamed “Pitbull”. Though small in stature his character and personal ethos looms large. McGuire started a small business, SEAL Team PT and wants to remove burdensome regulations that hamper business formation. Declaring himself a uniter, McGuire pledged to bring disparate sides together for the benefit of citizens. He wants to reduce taxes and increase support for law enforcement and first responders.

McGuire said that the state certificate of public need (COPN) policy currently in place hampers expansion of health care services to rural areas like Goochland and stifles competition, which increases cost.
John McGuire

McGuire said that education should be the number one priority for the state, but that not everyone needs to go to college. Career and technical education, like that offered in Goochland, should be an alternate path to personal success.

Jay Prendergast of Henrico seems like a really nice guy with good intentions. He supports conservative values and pledges to work hard in the General Assembly for his constituents. While he seemed a bit uninformed about Goochland—except that it may be the most talented baseball county in America—Prendergast pledged, if elected, to attend local government meetings and become very knowledgeable about Goochland to serve its citizens better.
Jay Prendergast

Louisa County attorney Graven Craig began his remarks with silence in honor of slain Virginia State Police Special Agent Mike Walter. He then declared his
conservative values especially the belief that “the free market system, the greatest creator of wealth the world has ever known,” provides the opportunity for everyone to prosper. While Craig supports efforts of localities to expand broadband coverage to all residents, he rejects the use of public private partnerships. These arrangements, said Craig, give public funds to private business and essentially let government pick winners and losers.

Craig mentioned the deadly conditions at the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road intersection where VDOT has approved, funded, and “fast tracked” improvements that may not be made until 2121. He pledged to address the matter if elected.
Graven Craig

Craig too opposes unfunded mandates. He believes that each jurisdiction should have the power to make its own land use decisions. His approach to keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them is simple: enforce the laws already on the books because we have to protect our law enforcement officers.

Craig said that a big part of the opioid addiction problem is over prescribing.

This is a smattering of impressions of three hours of comments by eight people committed to their interpretation of good government.

Please check them out and cast your vote for one on June 13.

The tri-partisan group— a three cornered hat would be a good logo—is hoping to hold a statewide candidate forum in September, stay tuned.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Heigh Ho Heigh ho, it’s off to vote we go


It will soon be time to vote again. In Virginia, we have the opportunity to go to the polls at least once every year.
On Tuesday, June 13, primaries for both republicans and democrats will be held to select candidates for governor; lieutenant governor, attorney general, and, in the 56th General Assembly District, which includes about the eastern third of Goochland, delegate. Voting will occur at your usual precinct. While no party registration is needed to participate in the primary, you may only cast a ballot for one party.

The 56th District is comprised of Louisa County and parts of Goochland, Henrico, and Spotsylvania Counties. Each Delegate represents approximately 83,000 people.

Unlike other years, delegate choices abound on both sides of the aisle. This will be a nice change from 2011, when Peter Farrell was essentially anointed into the 56th District delegate seat by a handful of men in a closed room a few hours after the earthquake that cracked the Washington Monument. The democrats did not field a candidate that year, so the republican nominee won the election. Farrell, who announced he would not seek reelection earlier this year, never faced an opponent at the polls.

Once again, the Goochland Democrats, Republicans, and Tea Party are joining forces to stage a 56th District candidate forum. It will be held on Saturday, June 3 at the Goochland High School from 1 to 4 p.m. Voters can see, hear, compare all candidates for this office, and choose a candidate. There may be an opportunity for questions from the audience.

A similar forum, held last January before the special election to fill the 22nd District State Senate seat when the incumbent Tom Garrett moved up the road to the United States Congress, provided a great community service to voters.

The democrats are: Lizzie M. Drucker-Basch, lizziedrucker@nophika.com, www.lizzieforvirginia.com; and Melissa M. Dart dart4delegate@gmail.com.

The republicans are: Matt C. Pinsker, info@pinsker4delegate.com, pinsker4delegate.com; Graven W. Craig, gravencraig@yahoo.com, http://gravencraig.com; George S. Goodwin, oaksby@gmail.com; Surya P. Dhakar, dhakarfordelegate@gmail.com, http://dhakarfordelegate.com; John J. McGuire III, john164@mcguire56.com; and J. F. "Jay" Prendergast, jayprendergast4delegate56@gmail.com, jay4delegate56.org.

As noted above, some of the candidates have websites, in addition to email addresses, and all are on Facebook.

Note that only two of the candidates, Louisa County Republicans Graven Craig and George Goodwin, are not Henrico residents. There are no contenders from Goochland. Supervisor Ken Peterson, District 5, declined to throw his hat in the ring.

The 56th District is a curious animal whose boundaries were likely drawn to concentrate republican voters. Combining parts of Short Pump with more rural areas that have different challenges, seems counterproductive.

Farrell, and his predecessor Bill Janis, used vague political rhetoric to tap dance around those attitudinal differences, contending that everyone in the 56th wants good government, great schools, and so forth.

Goochland County has traditionally had a good working relationship with its General Assembly delegation, which now includes 65th District Delegate Lee Ware, and 22nd District Senator Mark Peake, who succeeded Garrett in January.

Please try to attend the forum, or at least do some online research and make up your own mind about which person will serve Goochland best in Richmond.

Kudos to the political groups for making this forum possible.









Saturday, May 27, 2017

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Good jobs are going begging for lack of qualified workers while college graduates with anvils of student debt and no marketable skills are marooned in their parents’ basements.

How did things get so out of whack, and what can public schools do to remedy the situation?

Those topics and more were explored at a business and education roundtable held at Virginia Farm Bureau headquarters in West Creek on May 25. The event was sponsored by Goochland County Public Schools (GCPS), the Goochland Chamber of Commerce, and the county Department of Economic Development. Representatives from area companies, including Luck Stone and Wegman’s, participated as folks in work boots rubbed shoulders with those in business attire discussing workforce needs.

Goochland Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley, who literally—sports analogy intended—hit the ground running when he took the school division first chair not quite eleven months ago, asked local employers what qualities they find most important in new hires. “We want your input to design a better K-12 experience,” Raley said.

Dr. Jeremy Raley (foreground) and Dr. John Hendron

Education, said Raley is changing. He asked those present to think back to their time in school and recall what it looked like. No longer do students sit in neat rows of desks listening while a teacher lectures at the front of the room. Their desks may be clustered for group projects that develop teamwork and other collaboration skills while absorbing coursework, or they might be using power tools, or learning how to operate a backhoe on a simulator.

A crucial component of education, teachers, who, as one person said, “challenge you, push you, and make your brain hurt,” has not changed.

Raley thanked the School Board for encouraging and supporting teachers who take risks and use innovative techniques to engage students in learning as they “inspire the next generation to make a positive impact”, one of the goals of the GCPS strategic plan. (Visit http://goochlandschools.org/ to read about all the great things are schools are doing to “maximize the potential of every learner”.)

Providing all students with hands on exposure to a wide array of subject matter, many deeply involved with technology, expands their horizons. From the horticulture program where students grow hydroponic lettuce served in the cafeteria, to the Marine Jr. ROTC program that teaches leadership and personal responsibility, our kids are exposed to job specific skills and develop a positive work ethic.

Dr. John Hendron, Director of Technology and Innovation, said that next year, each GCPS student will have a device, either tablet or laptop. They will also have access to 3D printers. Using technology to collaborate on problem solving mimics real word activities.

Hendron used the prevalent technology of the smart phone to poll the attendees about the qualities they seek most in new employees. Choosing from a list of qualities, they responded by text. The winners were: positive work ethic; critical thinking, problem solving; and customer service.

While some jobs require a specific skill set, the ability to learn new tasks coupled with the work ethic is highly valued. “Even if an employee is highly skilled, if they have no desire to be there and work, I can’t use them,” one man said.

The discussion lamented the millennial reluctance to talk to customers. “The ability to verbally communicate is a powerful tool that they do not have,” one attendee observed.

Programs like the GCPS career and technical education (CTE) also give students the opportunity to explore careers that do not require expensive four year degrees. These include the heavy equipment operator course, one of two in Virginia, that offers a pathway to licensure and good jobs close to home, right out of high school.

Parents, said one person, are the biggest deterrent to technical education. They want the status of a college degree, even if their children might be better suited to a more hands on career.

Raley said that GCPS seeks to make learning an authentic experience that embeds essential real world skills into the K-12 learning experience.

While that sounds like buzzword gobbledygook, on a visit to Goochland Middle School last year, GOMM glimpsed classrooms where: boys learned how to plan menus and craft a household budget; students, boys and girls, used lathes and bandsaws to build robots; groups of students gathered around computers learning geography; and others worked individually and collectively to solve problems.

Partnership between schools and employers can pay huge dividends for our students and community.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Boom!


It’s official, Goochland is the Richmond region’s playground. Our county was recently recognized as a “2017 Playful City USA Community” by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit organization dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids. The Playful City USA program honors cities and towns across the country for putting the needs of families first so kids can learn, grow and develop important life skills.

The press release about the recognition is available in its entirety on the county homepage goochlandva.us/. It explains that communities selected make a concerted effort to provide active play environments for children and the community at large. Active play, the group contends, is a good way to build social networks and create connections whose benefits extend far beyond physical well-being.

The Playful City designation concentrates on the county’s efforts to expand parks and playgrounds and collaborate with local non-profits like the Goochland YMCA, GYAA, GUSA, and others, to leverage resources for the betterment of all. The county Parks and Rec department is continually expanding its offering of programs and activities for all ages. Offerings for adults, for instance, include programs on both kick boxing and salads.

A good example of this collaboration is Tucker Park by the Maidens bridge. A few years ago, the county brought the property, one of the few places in the county with access to the James River that does not involve crossing CSX railroad tracks.

Interested citizens soon formed “Friends of Tucker Park” that worked with the county to transform a wild spot on the river into a recreational mecca. Walking trails with benches perfect for watching the river roll by; a rain garden; a simple performance stage; a Sycamore grove to honor the late Don Charles, who first glimpsed the possibilities in the site; and the latest addition, a canoe launch on the eastern side that is home to an LL Bean Discovery School.

Other parks and walking trails are spouting around the county. The long neglected former middle school is blossoming into the Central High School Cultural and Educational Center, complete with athletic facilities and walking tracks. Hiking trails in the east end of the county are in the works.

There is lots more to do in Goochland.

We have the Goochland Drive-In Theater in Hadensville. As Goochland is horse country, there are several equestrian venues. Orapax Hunting Preserve has been named the number one hunting destination in Virginia. We have wineries, breweries, and a cidery continually creating imaginative and award-winning, potent potables.

Annual events like Rassawek (coming up June 3 and 4 rassawek.com/rassawek-spring-jubilee/welcome/); Field Day of the Past (www.fielddayofthepast.net) for a trip back to simpler times; Bethlehem Walk, which gives special meaning to Christmas; and Fourth of July fireworks are local life savors.

Our history can be recreation. Walk on the courthouse green (come this Sunday, May 21 at 3 p.m. for the dedication of interpretive markers there) and see the old stone jail. Our Circuit Court House, has been dispensing justice for nearly two centuries.

Tuckahoe Plantation, where Thomas Jefferson may have learned to read, often hosts events and is a movie and TV star. The AMC series Turn was partially filmed there, with each of its distinctive entrances playing different homes in different cities.

Cyclists love to pedal our winding narrow roads, and tubers, unable to read maps, often fail to realize that the James River does not parallel Route 6 and it can take twelve hours to float from West View on the James to Maidens, a half hour trip by car. Signs have been placed along the river to make this clear, let’s see how many have to be rescued this summer.

Events put on by local groups, fire-rescue companies; churches, civic organizations like the American Legion are other way to weave the distinctive thread of every individual into a strong and colorful tapestry of community.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of recreational opportunities in Goochland. Kudos to the county for its efforts to bring folks together while having fun. See the Parks and Rec section of the county website for more information.







Monday, May 8, 2017

On the fly

Goochland County planning commissioners voted unanimously (4-0 with Matt Brewer, District 2 absent) to recommend denial of a conditional use permit for a Dunkin' Donuts drive through window in the Courthouse Commons shopping center at their May 4 meeting.

The Commissioners, who expressed enthusiasm for having a Dunkin' Donuts in the Courthouse Village area, could not get comfortable with the traffic pattern for the proposed drive through in a relatively narrow space on the west side of the strip shopping center that divides it from the Essex Bank property.

As proposed, traffic lanes for the drive through window would loop around the end of the building creating storage lanes for people waiting for their orders. However, those same lanes would be used by large trucks making deliveries to loading docks at the back of the shopping center that serve the other businesses there.

A similar proposal made in 2011 by Big Cheese Pizza, former occupant of the same space in the shopping center, was withdrawn before getting to the Planning Commission for essentially the same reasons.

Applicant Luis Cabral contended that the drive through lanes, which would be identified by pavement markings rather than curbing, would be sufficient to handle peak traffic, which he estimated to be between 7 and 9 a.m.

He also contended that deliveries made by large trucks to other tenants could be scheduled to occur during off peak times to lessen the possibility of simultaneous use of the traffic lanes by tractor trailers and drive through customers. Cabral said that Food Lion and Dollar General, the two large tenants in the shopping center, receive only a handful of tractor trailer deliveries per week combined.

The direction of truck traffic behind the shopping center was also a concern. Cabral seemed to indicate that trucks would enter on the west side, essentially through the drive through lanes, unload their cargo behind the shopping center and continue on to exit on the east side of the center, but that is not guaranteed. He said that Dunkin' Donuts expects to receive two tractor trailer deliveries per week that would block access for other tenants behind the shopping center for about ten minutes and would take place before those businesses open for the day.

“I don’t like it,” said Derek Murray, District 3. “I understand the need for a drive through and would like to have it, but I am concerned that something could go wrong.”
John Myers, District 1 said he could live with the proposal if it mandated one way traffic behind the building to prevent trucks from turning around after making deliveries and exiting via the drive through lanes.

John Shelhorse, District 4, said that Dunkin' Donuts is a good commercial enterprise and he hopes the applicant can modify his proposal so it can work.

Commission Chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, said that Dunkin' Donuts would be a good asset to the area, but people do not always pay attention to signs and pavement marking and infringe on other people’s right of way.

Having been acted upon by the Planning Commission, the application will now proceed to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote. In the interim, Cabral could revise his plan to make it more palatable from a safety standpoint.

In a companion matter, the Commissioners addressed a proposed ordinance amendment to make drive through businesses a by right use in areas zoned B-1; M-1, which includes West Creek; and M-2. A CUP for drive through businesses will still be required in the more restrictive B-2 zoning district.

According to Principal Planner Tom Coleman, the ordinance change is intended to rectify what has been perceived as an unfair distinction between types of businesses permitted by right in areas zoned for business. “It does not seem fair to make a drive through restaurant go to the Supervisors for permission to build when a sit down restaurant is allowed by right. Drive throughs are appropriate in commercial area, this clarifies and simplifies the process.”

The proposed ordinance contains design standards for drive aisles, stacking lanes, and pedestrian crossings as safety measures.


After a bit of discussion, the Commissioners sent the proposed revision back to the drawing board. They asked Assistant County Attorney Whitney Marshall to draft revised language differentiating between drive though businesses built from scratch on a contiguous parcel from those that are “retrofitted” where drive through lanes could impinge on nearby businesses.

The Centerville McDonald’s, for instance, which occupies its own parcel and configured drive through lanes, parking, and pedestrian access accordingly is an example of the kind of entity that would be by right in the new ordinance. A retrofit situation like the like the proposed Dunkin' Donuts, whose drive through lanes could interfere with its neighbors, would get more scrutiny. The Commissioners voted to defer that matter to their July 13 meeting.

This change will probably pave the way for additional drive throughs in the county. Curiously, with the exception of a drive through window at Walgreens on Pouncey Tract Road and a drive through Dunkin' Donuts in the Shell station opposite Short Pump Town Center, there are no drive throughs on Broad Street between the Taco Bell near Wal-Mart and the Centerville McDonald’s.





Sunday, May 7, 2017

May pole



Now that the budget has been approved and the tax rates set, Goochland County supervisors had a rather quiet May meeting.

The afternoon session began with an invocation by Rev. Emily Dunevant, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church. Her prayer reminded our elected and appointed officials that they serve the citizens and asked for divine guidance as they make decisions.

Shannon Grayson of the Goochland Extension Office was selected as employee of the month for April by Virginia Tech for her 13 years of exemplary service. Shannon’s boundless good cheer and exceptional professionalism makes her an excellent representative of Virginia Tech outreach. Shannon, who is believed to be able to herd cats, sends out notices about programs sponsored by Extension, including the Goochland Leadership Enterprise program. This recognition is well-deserved,

Beth Moore, who helped guide Goochland Fellowship through some rough waters; worked to create the Friends of Goochland Parks and improve Tucker Park; and now serves as executive director of Goochland Habitat for Humanity, was inducted into the Parks and Rec Wall of Fame.

The Tennessee native, who embodies the notion “bloom where you re planted,” brings a wealth of relevant experience and a bottomless well of good cheer to every task she undertakes.

The Supervisors also approved a proclamation presented by Senior Connections, the Capital Area agency on aging, recognizing May as Older Americans Month. “Goochland County joins in amplifying the many voices of older Americans and raise awareness of vital aging issues across the country.”

These ceremonial recognitions pay homage to citizens whose efforts build the Goochland community.

Once again, Goochland received a certificate of achievement for excellence in Financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers’ Association. County Administrator John Budesky thanked Director of Financial Services Barbara Horlacher; Debbie White, Director of Finance for Goochland Public Schools; all Constitutional Officers; department heads; and county staff for their hard work and consistent management. “When you start doing these things well, this (award) becomes expected,” said Budesky, pointing out that not everyone earns this recognition.

In an effort to relive the throbbing toothache that is traffic at the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road intersection, Budesky, District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr.; Sheriff James L. Agnew; Principal Planner Tom Coleman; and Assistant County Administrator Todd Kilduff trekked to Colonial Heights on May 1 to speak at a VDOT public hearing on “smart scale” road project. Their purpose was to bring the gravity of Goochland’s traffic issues to the attention of the people at VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—in the hope of expediting the turn signals, additional storage lanes and other upgrades that have been approved and funded, but, may NOT BE INSTALLED BEFORE 2020.

Anyone who would like to encourage VDOT to make these upgrades to the Broad Street Road/ Rt./ 288 intersection may submit comments by email or mail by May 16, 2017: Six-YearProgram@VDOT.Virginia.gov, or Infrastructure Investment Director, Virginia Department of Transportation 1401 East Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219.

Marshall Winn, VDOT rep for the Ashland residency, which includes Goochland, reported that the paving of Fairground Road should be completed by the end of the week. (A VDOT notice implies that overnight paving on May 7 should finish that job.) He said that guard rail reinforcement work will then occur. He also promised that Blair Road will be paved sometime between July 1 and August 1 “for sure.”

County Assessor Mary Ann Davis said that state code requires annual recertification of property with land use taxation status. This year’s update went very smoothly, with only one property not reporting. Davis said that landowners responded well to the county program to update its data and that “residents stepped up and worked well with us.” Going forward, she said, the process will simply require confirming that information on a mostly completed form, sent by the county, is accurate. She said that farmers often change the use of parcels from year to year, and their land use records should reflect that.

The Board approved a request from schools to appropriate just under $90 thousand dollars for a long term demographic and educational facilities planning study. The tricky part of this will be accurately predicting the number of school children going forward. At a recent community meeting, a mother whose children attend Randolph Elementary School complained that the apartments in West Creek were responsible for the trailers installed there to handle a burgeoning school population. Planning staff explained that the majority of the new students moved into existing homes. It will be interesting to see how that phenomenon is addressed as empty nesters are replaced by families with school-aged children.

In their evening session, the supervisors approved an amendment to the rural preservation zoning ordinance that abolished the Public Recreational Facility Authority, and moved responsibility for maintenance of the preservation tract to the homeowners’ association. This removes the possibility of responsibility for the preservation tract reverting to county control.

Rural preservation zoning was established in the early days of the century to prevent dreaded sprawl of housing tracts consuming all of Goochland’s farmland. The premise was that a significant portion of a subdivision’s land was to be left undeveloped in a preservation tract, whose uses were to be overseen by an appointed Public Recreational Facility Authority. RP zoning encouraged smaller, clustered home sites.

The permitted uses of the preservation tract varied from agricultural to passive recreation. The ordinance was tweaked several times to deal with particular situations. Breeze Hill, currently under construction on Fairground Road, and perhaps the iteration of RP that fulfilled its purpose best, was zoned about a decade ago. It was perhaps the last RP zoning.
In recent years, most residential rezonings have been smaller lots on land served by public utilities.

This change is part of the ongoing rewrite of county zoning ordinances. State code governs the responsibilities of homeowners’ associations. Let’s hope that realtors selling homes in RP subdivisions, especially those based outside Goochland, do a good job helping potential buyers aware of what they are getting into.










Monday, April 24, 2017

Fore-ish



A hi tech golf and entertainment venue plans to invest approximately $25 million dollars to build the area’s first Drive Shack. It will be located on 31.1 acres behind Audi of Richmond. Drive Shack will snug against the curve where Rt. 288 meets Interstate 64.

At an April 20 meeting at the Centerville Fire-Rescue station, adjacent property owners and other interested parties got an early glimpse of the project.

Drive Shack CEO Sarah Watterson explained that the company offers a way to combine golf and entertainment, and “take golf off the course” for busy people. The three story, approximately 60 thousand square foot building—Wegman’s, by comparison, is 120,000 square feet on one level—will contain 90 suites where people will use electronic enable equipment to hit golf balls onto a very special driving range. The activity, said Watterson, will appeal to golfers and non-golfers alike. Someone likened it to a combination of golf and pinball.

Drive Shack will complement nearby golf courses including Kinloch, Hermitage, Sycamore Creek, and Hunting Hawk. Golf is popular in the Richmond region. According to a post on Richmondbizsense.com more than 350,000 rounds of golf were played in the Richmond region in 2016. Hunting Hawk, just up Ashland Road, came in third with 26,000 rounds.

In addition to the golf suites, Drive Shack will include food and beverage service, and space for events ranging from corporate retreats to kids’ birthday parties. Memberships will be available.

Watterson explained that the location, close to Short Pump and major highways is ideal. Because Dive Shack is very sensitive to light concerns, all illumination is contained within the confines of its property and aimed down. She expects external sound to be minimal and drowned out by noise the vehicles passing by.

Access to Drive Shack from Broad Street Road will be via the internal road being built for Audi of Richmond. Three Chopt Road will dead end at the Drive Shack property, putting to rest the silly idea that VDOT floated about reconnecting Three Chopt Road via some sort of “intermodal connector” over, under, or through Rt. 288.

The new entertainment venue, said Watterson, will generate about 350 hospitality jobs and spend around $25 million on the project. She said that Drive Shack “is the best neighbor you can be” and will be an asset to the community.

Adding another business to the Broad Street Road corridor raised concerns about even more traffic is an area that is giving new meaning to the term “dysfunction junction”. Watterson said that that Drive Shack customers will trickle in and out during its operating hours.

Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter said that improvements to the Broad Street Road/ Rt.288 intersection have been approved and funded and will be installed by VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!—sometime in the next four years.

Drive Shack, which is a publicly traded company, NYSE symbol DS, will own and operate the venue.

This is an excellent use for this parcel of land, which, given its location, might have been otherwise somewhat difficult to develop. Adding entertainment to the mix in eastern Goochland will move some spending westward.

Kudos to everyone involved in bringing Drive Shack to Goochland. May it be successful for many years to come. Drive Shack will begin the process to rezone the property from agricultural to business use in the next few weeks. It hopes to be operational by late summer 2018.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tough decisions



On April 18, a few hours after they approved the county budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins on July 1, and set tax rates for calendar year 2017, essentially unchanged, Goochland supervisors voted unanimously to approve three land use matters involving West Creek.

These cases—an ordinance amendment creating a mechanism for parcels of land to be added to the planned business park administratively; rezoning of approximately seven acres to M-1, the predominate zoning for West Creek; and adding a second access point to Rt. 6 and shrinking the retail setback proffer for a portion of West Creek frontage on Route 6 from 1,000 feet to 100 feet—have been simmering since late last year.

West Creek principal Tommy Pruitt stated that he believes the land in question, essentially the former Oak Hill golf club property, will develop as a mixed use enclave with a combination, as yet undetermined, of residential, retail, and commercial components.

Long-time residents who live in the general vicinity of the Rt. 6/ Rt. 288 interchange adamantly opposed the changes contending that they are not justified in any way and will shatter the rural character of the Rt. 6 corridor.

West Creek has been touted as the county’s economic engine for decades, yet still resembles a bucolic nature preserve. In the 12 years since Rt. 288 connected south of the James, little has happened.

Pruitt stated at both the March meeting of the planning commission and the public hearing before the supervisors that there are no firm plans for the subject property. He has also pledged that whatever is built on the site will be well designed, of high quality, and will contain some sort of retail use.

Opponents were not impressed. Some speakers at the supervisors’ public hearing seemed to be under the impression that apartments pay no real estate taxes, which is not true. Multifamily property is taxed like any other residential land. Those taxes become a component of rent payments. People who live in apartments have cars, and they do pay local personal property tax. Pruitt stated repeatedly that there are no firm plans for the subject property, that the residential component could be townhouses or a “retirement village”.

The Bristol Apartments currently under construction in West Creek, for instance, are likely to become a “dormitory” for Capital One employees. They have cars, some rather nice, and will pay personal property tax in Goochland.

One citizen told the Board that he and his wife moved to Goochland as soon as their kids were out of school to enjoy the quiet rural atmosphere and do not want it ruined. They are, he said, quite happy to drive to Henrico to shop, where they leave their retail dollars, and accompanying sales tax—one penny of the five percent tax—to support Henrico schools.

They apparently care little for Goochland schools. Indeed, these could be the same people who a few years ago objected to the temporary use of private school athletic fields in the River Road corridor by Goochland kids. Though no one said it aloud, the attitude was that they did not want riff raff from the rest of Goochland encroaching on their turf.

After carefully listening to all comments during the public hearing, the supervisors made some thoughtful observations.

Bob Minnick, District 4, and Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2, contended that Goochland’s main travel corridors, Broad Street Road and Rt. 6 are reasonable locations for retail to provide amenities to county residents to generate sales tax to help fund out schools.

Board Vice chair Ken Peterson, District 5, which includes the property in question, said that all of West Creek has been considered “prime economic development” use for more than 30 years. Since the applications were filed, five public meetings were held at which citizens expressed their heartfelt thoughts about the matter.

He observed that West Creek was the result of a tug of war to decide where and how economic development would happen in Goochland. In the early part of this century, Goochland County made an approximately $100 million commitment in the form of Tuckahoe Creek Service District infrastructure to support that.

Observations about the creation of West Creek, 49 years ago.

West Creek, Peterson said, may have been conceived as a park for corporate headquarters and light industry, but that assumption is no longer valid. Rigid thinking can lead to negative outcomes.

“We were elected to represent the best interests of Goochland County as a whole, not certain groups,” Peterson said. He made motions to approve all three cases.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Goochland is open for business



Matt Ryan, Goochland’s Director of Economic Development, presented his quarterly update to the Board of Supervisors on April 4.

After years of stagnation, the east end of the county is on a roll. In addition to previously announced projects including an Advanced Auto Parts store and rehabilitation hospital, a retirement home, and a high tech golf driving range venue are in the works east of Rt. 288 in the Broad Street Road corridor.

Tuckahoe Pines, a 130 unit upscale retirement home will be in The Notch, opposite the Wawa. The “Drive Shack” golf venue will be located between Richmond Audi, under construction on the north side of Broad Street Road and Interstate 64.They represent an expected investment of more than $150 million and will bring increased property taxes, additional users for the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, and more jobs to the county.

Ryan’s presentations use charts and graphs illustrating hits on the economic development website and other metrics. (See the report, beginning on page 60 of the April 4 board packet, available on the county website http://goochlandva.us/) Goochland, said Ryan, is definitely on the radar screen of regional, state, and national brokers looking at Central Virginia. Given that the county cannot justify the steep admission fee to join the Greater Richmond Partnership, which includes Chesterfield and Henrico, that’s quite a coup.

Location, location, location, as the realtors say, may be part of this. Short Pump is still a hot ticker for economic development, but it’s almost built out, and Goochland is waiting with open arms to take up the slack. Exploiting this advantage is prudent.

Capital investment in Goochland during 2016 hit $87.1 million, up from $29.7 million the previous year. This translates into a better tax base ratio of residential/commercial of 81.4/18.6 percent for 2016. For 2017, the ratio is anticipated to be 80.4/19.6. The long term goal is 70/30.

Since the current supervisors took office in 2012, they have made economic development a priority. Regulations have been streamlined and, in some cases, fees reduced to encourage business activity. At its meeting last week, the Board referred an ordinance amendment to the Planning Commission that, if approved, will make drive through enterprises by-right uses in property zoned for business and commercial use.

For those who fear that all of this accommodation to new development will transform Goochland into the next Chesterfield, relax. The 2035 county comprehensive land use plan—available in its entirety on the county website—shows that 85 percent of Goochland, mostly west of Manakin Road, will remain “rural.” Property east of Manakin Road and north of Route 6, on the other hand, will be developed.

The Economic Development Authority, said Ryan, is developing a set of criteria to deal with increasing loan request. The EDA, whose members are appointed by the supervisors, is an independent organization. It has the statutory ability to grant loans. The EDA is also discussing possible deployment of a local business incubator to help get fledgling enterprises off the ground, and working on an update of its strategic plan. The group expects to hold joint sessions with the supervisors later this year.

Ryan also reported that the EDA sold all of its properties in the Midpoint Industrial Park in Hadensville.

The county’s economic development website, www.goochlandforbusiness.com has been redesigned, explained Ryan. It is a valuable tool in attracting attention of business to Goochland.

Ryan hinted that additional investments in the county may be on the way.





Thursday, April 6, 2017

Highlights of April Supervisors' meeting


Blue pinwheels marking Child Abuse Prevention Month around the Dickson fountain

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors began their April 4 meeting with proclamations about Child Abuse Prevention; Hunger Awareness; and National Crime Victims’ Rights. Citizens are urged to support the food drive to restock local food pantries this month.
“What a caring county we live in,” observed Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3. “People jump in and help each other. I am always impressed by what goes on in these local organizations.”

The public hearings for the proposed Goochland County FY18 budget brought no surprises and little comment on April 4. There were a few adjustments, including the addition of a principal planner to the Department Community Development for $89,000, and a transfer $9,100 from the fire-rescue cost recovery funds to the Fire-Rescue Association for a paid treasurer to improve its "processes".

Real estate tax rates will remain at 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which represents a slight increase; the ad valorem tax will stay at 32 cents. Some fees were reduced, but cost recovery rates for EMS hospital transport will rise to levels charged around the region. For complete details, view the budget, which is available in its entirety on the county website goochlandva.us. A vote will be taken on the proposed budget and tax rates for calendar 2017 at a 3 p.m. Board meeting scheduled for April 18.

County Administrator John Budesky thanked citizens for their input during the budget process and comments at the town hall meetings. “We take all of these comments to heart and use them every day in our business decisions,” Budesky said.

After a well-planned weeklong detour on. Fairground Road, the central part of Goochland found itself in gridlock as surprise roadwork tied up another part of Fairground Road, Route 6, and Oilville Road at the same time.

Marshall Winn, VDOT representative said that he advocated doing this work at night, rather than during daytime hours, but was overruled by the contractor retained to do the actual work. Once again, VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Ooops!”—has demonstrated its arrogance. Aside from inconveniencing everyone stuck in traffic, the road work could have hampered swift movement of emergency vehicles.

Winn said that there will be extensive roadwork on River Road West in Courthouse Village and Fairground Road in the next few months.

Given notice, most people would likely choose alternate routes to get to their destinations. Aside from sparing people the heartburn of sitting in traffic, the fewer vehicles that move through a construction zone, the safer it is for everyone. Winn said that contractors are supposed to give VDOT a “two week look ahead” of their work schedules. He will share that with the county to inform citizens. Facebook is probably the most effective way to get the word out.

A bit later in the meeting, Board Vice Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, pressed Bruce McNabb, VDOT engineer for its Ashland Residency, which includes Goochland, about the timetable for improvements to the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road intersections in Centerville.

At the District 4 & 5 town hall meeting a few weeks ago, McNabb said that, even though the project, had been approved and funded, it would not be completed before 2020. McNabb explained that VDOT’s “Smartscale” program approved a wide range of projects across the entire state and getting all of them done at the same time is a challenge. He also said that there will be a meeting in May with the Secretary of Transportation. McNabb suggested that an appearance at that meeting by someone from Goochland to reinforce the urgency of those improvements could speed up the process.

County Assessor Mary Ann Davis reported that 14,857 reassessment notices were sent to property owners in January. During the review period between January 13 and February 15, her office receive 244 inquiries. Of those, 58 properties were given a value decrease; eight were increased; 138 remain unchanged and 40 are still pending. There are currently four appeals—1 residential and three commercial— to the Board of Equalization, which plans to meet in June.

The supervisors referred an ordinance amendment to the Planning Commission which would make drive through restaurants by right uses in B-1, B-2, B-3, M-1 M-1, and M-2 zoning districts. Currently, drive through restaurants must obtain a conditional use permit.

Peterson explained that the CUP requirement slows down economic development. Objections to drive through restaurants are the same every time. He contended that, as it is not local government’s job to pick winners and losers, but to remove regulatory impediments to economic development. Businesses that want to locate in Goochland have done their homework and believe that they can operate profitably here.

Will this change open. the door to more burger doodles in the county, or perhaps lure a national coffee emporium here? A CUP request for Dunkin’ Donuts to build a drive through window next to Food Lion in Courthouse Village is in process.

Both the planning commission and supervisors will hold public hearings on the matter, providing ample opportunity for citizen input. If you have an opinion on this subject, let your supervisor know.





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

They said it couldn't be done


Company 6 District Chief Chris Brooks and District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette ceremonially uncouple a fire hose to open the new Hadensville Fire-Rescue Station. Looking on are (ltr) Gocohland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay; County Administrator John Budesky; District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr.; District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick, and District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson.

On Sunday, March 26 the new Hadensville Company 6 Fire-Rescue Station was dedicated. Following a prayer of thanks for the service of the volunteers and all who collaborated to bring the project to fruition, the words of the Pledge of Allegiance rang out in the rafters to further bless the new station.

Dignitaries attending included the entire Board of Supervisors, several past Fire-Rescue Chiefss; Goochland Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson; Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Caudill; and our newly elected State Senator Mark Peake. We hope that Peake’s appearance signals a willingness to work for Goochland in the General Assembly. (Hopefully, some residents of the “upper” end of the county, who have little or no access to high speed internet, gave him an earful about how it is needed for more than entertainment.)

Susan Lascolette, who represents District 1, home of fire-rescue station 6, said “it is a great day in Goochland County. The station honors the contribution and dedication of all of the years of the volunteers who contribute so much to the community. The supervisors had the foresight to see the need for this and make it our first priority. Becky Dickson found a way to finance this with no debt.”

Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay explained that the county is served by a combination of volunteers and career providers who work together to save lives and protect property.

Representatives of Woodmen, of the World, which gives flags to new public safety facilities to thank those in “the most honorable profession”, presented the stars and stripes to Brooks and Station Chief Lt. Earl Taylor. Brooks carried the national emblem to the flagpole in front of the station where a color guard from the Goochland High School Marine Jr. ROTC unit raised the colors.


After that, a ceremonial hose uncoupling was performed by Brooks and District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette. “In the fire service, we open buildings by uncoupling a fire hose instead of cutting a ribbon,” MacKay explained.

Then the doors of Fire-Rescue Station 6 opened wide to welcome the community for tours and refreshments.

The original Company 6 Station, built around 1965, had long outlived its usefulness. Hadensville Volunteer District Chief Chris Brooks told the audience that filled the apparatus bay that in 1999, the Company 6 volunteers put a new station in their annual budget. They soon learned that this would be a very expensive undertaking. In successive years, upkeep on the existing station depleted the building fund and a new station seemed to be an impossible dream.

Yet, the intrepid Company 6 volunteers used their station in the best traditions of fire-rescue, hosting community events, conducting training, and saving lives and protecting property.

The old brick and block facility consisted of equipment bays, a small meeting room/office, and kitchen that shared space with the brush truck. Due to the topography of its site, expansion was not an option. As fire trucks and ambulances grew larger, doors of the apparatus bays allowed only a few inches of clearance to get the trucks in and out.
Fire trucks barely fit through the doors of the old Company 6. Notice the notches on the door frame to accommodate the side mirrors.

In 2009, when the county’s first paid fire-rescue providers were hired, the situation grew more complicated. While volunteers endured a station with no showers or sleeping facilities, employees were entitled by OSHA to minimum workplace standards.

MacKay said that the current Board of Supervisors toured county facilities soon after taking office in 2012. While they were at the old station 6, career duty crew members were preparing their lunch, and needed to remove the brush truck from the kitchen in order to open the refrigerator door. The new supervisors decided right then to put a new station 6 went at the top of their priority list.
The brush truck and kitchen shared cramped quarters in the old station
.

Paying for it, was another matter. Our late County Administrator Becky Dickson suggested that making personal property tax payable on a semi-annual basis would generate a one-time $2.6 million “windfall” to pay for the station. The actual cost is about $4.4 million.

Brooks said that the Company 6 volunteers looked around for an ideal location for the new station and eventually concluded that they had been in the right place all along. When property across the street became available, it was purchased for the new station.

Representatives of Woodmen, of the World, which gives flags to new public safety facilities to thank those in “the most honorable profession”, presented the stars and stripes to Brooks and Station Chief Lt. Earl Taylor. Brooks carried the national emblem to the flagpole in front of the station where a color guard from the Goochland High School Marine Jr. ROTC unit raised the colors.

After that, a ceremonial hose uncoupling was performed by Brooks and District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette. “In the fire service, we open buildings by uncoupling a fire hose instead of cutting a ribbon,” MacKay explained.

Then the doors of Fire-Rescue Station 6 opened wide to welcome the community for tours and refreshments.

The new station has offices, a meeting room; a spacious kitchen large enough to hold three brush trucks; a fitness center; bunk and shower rooms; a laundry; a decontamination room; and lots of room for expansion. The bay doors are wide and high and open at both ends. It will serve as place of work, for the community to assemble, and as a place of refuge in times of widespread emergency.
Wide new bay doors have lots of room for big trucks.

On March 30, Lascolette will host a District 1 Town Hall meeting at the station starting at 7 p.m.

This is the first fire-rescue station built by the county. The others were built, in most cases literally, by the hands of volunteers with moral, financial, and hands-on support of citizens. Fire-rescue station 6 was definitely a learning experience for all involved and its lessons will serve as a guide for the future.






Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring town hall

Thanks to everyone who tried to solve the problem with the blog notification email list. The cyber gremlins are behaving themselves, but that may not last. You might want to bookmark www.goochlandomm.blogspot.com and check in often.


The tone of the Goochland Town meeting for District 4 and 5 that filled the meeting room at Hermitage Country Club on March 23 was oddly anxious. By most metrics, things are pretty good in the county right now. Revenues are expected to be up a bit, the schools are getting high marks for their efforts to prepare every student to succeed; and economic development efforts are starting to bear fruit.

Supervisor Ken Peterson, District 5, who recently announced that he will not pursue the seat in the General Assembly being vacated by Peter Farrell, sounded like he was running for something. At times, he seemed on the verge of doing a soft shoe dance routine, lacking only props of a straw boater hat and cane, before a full meeting room at the Hermitage Country Club.

County Administrator John Budesky, who came on board last August, presented his first proposed budget. He explained that the proposed county spending plan for fiscal 2018, which begins on July 1, was the result of extensive meetings with all department heads. Budget allocations were prioritized in accordance with the supervisors’ commitment to support core government functions: law enforcement; fire-rescue; and education, all of which received increases, though probably not as much as they had hoped for.

Budesky also touched briefly on the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP),which includes very big ticket items like a new school; a new courthouse; a fire-rescue station; and a ladder truck to replace one purchased a few years ago by the Manakin volunteers deemed too expensive to repair. There was little discussion of how the CIP will be funded, though issuance of additional debt somewhere around 2020 is likely.

The Tuckahoe Creek Service District ad valorem tax was discussed. Budesky said it will likely remain at the current 32 cents per $100 of valuation in addition to the 53 cent real estate tax for the foreseeable future. Utility rates will see a modest increase because the cost of water, which the county buys from Henrico, is going up.

TCSD debt is on track for retirement in 2042. A new section has been added to the FAQs on the county website http://goochlandva.us explaining the TCSD in excruciating detail. It’s worth a look, especially if you pay the ad valorem tax. It also includes information on exiting the TCSD for property not served by water and sewer.

School Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley gave a brief explanation of the school budget. Go to http://goochlandschools.org/school-board/budget-and-finance/ for details. Raley announced that Goochland Schools were ranked the 8th best in the Commonwealth by Niche.com. He said that a division wide initiative looked at all programs to identify those that were not performing well and repurposed approximately $200,000.

Students from grades 3 to 12 will receive devices, either tablets or laptops, in the fall so they can have the computer literacy that is as vital to 21 century employment as reading. Programs to prepare students for computer related jobs that do not require college degrees, currently going begging in Central Virginia, are also in the works.

The career and technical education program at Goochland High School, which allows students to get hands on exposure to a wide range of skills, was also discussed. Students completing CTE courses are ready to obtain certifications so they can hold well-paying jobs close to home. The Marine Jr. ROTC program not only gives high school students a leg up on entering military service, but encourages good behavior in school. Some GHS students are cross-enrolled at Reynolds Community College and will have completed an associate’s degree when they graduate from high school.

Dr. Raley said that the schools plan to retain a consultant to determine what kind of school will be built and where and if it makes financial sense to renovate older buildings.

Peterson touted economic development, including the rehabilitation hospital coming to the Notch at West Creek around 2020. Depending on how the project, a joint venture between VCU and Sheltering Arms, is structured, it may or may not be subject to real estate taxes. However, it will pay ad valorem tax, connection fees, and sewer and water fees in the TCSD. He failed to mention, however, the Advance Auto Parts store on its way to Centerville next to Company 3 on the north side of Broad Street Road. Still no national coffee emporium on the horizon.

Badly needed improvements to the perilous Rt. 288/Broad Street Road interchange, including additional off ramp lane storage and traffic signals, which have all been approved, will not, according to a VDOT representative in the audience, happen before 2021. That is outrageous. Someone needs to take our new delegation to the General Assembly to this interchange and make it clear that it needs to be fixed NOW.

A citizen stated that The Tuckahoe Creek bridge connecting Ridgefield Parkway to Rt. 288 is also badly needed to ease traffic on Broad Street, regardless of the objections of Henrico politicians. VDOT reform is way overdue and should be made an issue in this year’s election campaigns.

In response to an objection to the proposed elimination of the thousand foot setback for retail uses on the old Oak Hill golf club property, Peterson pulled up a photo and, after a bit more soft shoe contended that many of the more than 6,000 people who work in West Creek, many of them Millennials, want to live and play close to where they work. He suggested that apartments in West Creek, especially those near Capital One and the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery under construction would enable that lifestyle.

Many claims have been made that Goochland County is expected to be 85 per cent rural in 2035. The other 15 percent, however, will be developed in pursuit of a 70/30 percent ratio of real estate/commercial tax base. Peterson said that development west of Rt. 288 on Rt. 6 is expected to follow TCSD lines, which end at the Richmond Country Club.

In response to a question about hiring additional dispatchers to be able to provide medical assisted dispatch, Peterson did a riff about continued hiring of career fire-rescue personnel to augment our valiant volunteers, whose numbers are declining. He said that new dispatchers will be added each fiscal year, and that a handful of new fire-rescue career hires will reduce response times for 911 calls.

A lot of information was made available to the citizens at this meeting. We hope it was digested, and studied and will prompt questions and comments at the budget public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m. in the board meeting room of the County Administration Building at 1800 Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village.

Citizen engagement in local government tends to fall off when they believe things are going well. Elected and appointed officials need feedback, both positive and negative, to do their jobs effectively.



Monday, March 20, 2017

Mark your calendar

Spring 2017 Goochland Town Hall meetings

The latest round of Town Hall meetings in Goochland County begin this week.

Supervisors and School Board members will be present to respond to questions and listen to concerns of citizens on any and all topics. County and school division staff will also be on hand to discuss the proposed county and school budgets for fiscal year 2018, which begins on July 1, and other matters of interest. The meetings begin at 7 p.m.

The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, March 21, District 2 and 3 at the Central High School Cultural and Educational Center located at 2748 Dogtown Road. Supervisors Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 and Ned Creasey, District 3, and School Board Members Kevin Hazzard District 2 and John Lumpkin, District 3 will be present.

Thursday, March 23, the District 4 and 5 meeting will be held at the Hermitage Country Club. Supervisors Bob Minnick, District 4 and Ken Peterson, District 5 will be joined by School Board Members Beth Hardy District 4 and John Wright, District 5.

Thursday, March 30, the District 1 meeting will be held at the wonderful new Hadensville Company 6 Fire-Rescue Station in Hadensville. (It’s across Rt. 250 from the old station, you can’t miss it.) Susan Lascolette, District 1 Supervisor and Mike Payne, District 1 School Board member will take citizen questions and comments.

The proposed county budget is available on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ under the budget tab at the left of the homepage. This document contains a lot of interesting and useful information about how the county uses revenue. They’re spending your tax dollars, please take a few minutes to be informed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Boom


On March 12—about ten o’clock, a loud noise shook Goochland County. It turned out to be another earthquake. According to the USGS, the epicenter of the 2.3 magnitude quake was west of Fairground Road on the south side of Broad Street Road.
Visit http://goochlandva.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=74 for related information supplied by Goochland County.

In other news, Virginia General Assembly Delegate Peter Farrell, who represents the 56th District, which includes the eastern portion of Goochland, announced that he will not seek reelection this November. Farrell began his tenure in the GA when he was selected by the Republican Committee Chairmen of the 56th District to be the Republican candidate in August, 2011. That action happened a couple of hours after the “big one” that shook of Central Virginia, and damaged the Washington Monument.

So far, one democrat and two republicans have thrown their hats into the race for party nominations to succeed Farrell. There will be a primary in June to select candidates for both parties. This will be the second change in Goochland’s delegation to the GA in as many years. In January, Mark Peake of Lynchburg won a special election to succeed Tom Garrett in the 22nd District State senate seat. The District is comprised of Louisa, eastern Goochland and north western Henrico.

The two announced republicans hail from Louisa, which has the highest number of voters in the district. There is speculation that others may enter the race. Initial candidate paperwork must be filed by March 30. It looks like the close working relationship that Goochland, caught between two larger voter bases, has enjoyed with its GA delegation could become just a fond memory.

Both the Goochland Board of Supervisors and Economic Development Authority met in closed session this week to discuss “…a prospective business or industry or the expansion of an existing business or industry where no previous announcement has been made of the business’ or industry’s interest in locating or expanding its facilities in the community, as permitted by Section 2.2-3711 (A)(5) of the Code of Virginia.”

Meetings like this can lead to announcements of projects like the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery complex, currently under construction in West Creek, or nothing. Stay tuned.

The EDA is crafting an update to the economic development strategic plan developed in 2011. Joint workshops with the Board of Supervisors on this topic are expected in the next few months.

An announcement that the proposed rehabilitation hospital planned for The Notch in West Creek cleared the state’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) hurdle sooner than expected is more good news for Goochland. This will bring another healthcare option closer to county residents and add jobs to the local economy.

Those who worry that the upsurge in economic development threatens the rural nature of Goochland should take heart. The county’s 2035 Comprehensive Land Use Plan expects 85 percent of the county will still be rural. The other 15 percent will not.

Don’t forget about the upcoming closure of Fairground Road next week. See the county webpage http://goochlandva.us/ for details.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Help

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

March miscellany


When you turn your clocks ahead one hour this weekend be sure to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and make sure they work.

Also, the annual burn ban, which prohibits outside fires before 4 p.m. until
April 30, is in place. If it is dry and windy, do not burn at all. Remember, the best fire is one that never starts!!

It’s budget season for Goochland County, so the supervisors are holding extra meetings to hear departmental and other presentations. On March 7, they heard some budget presentations and usual business at their regular monthly session.

Robin Lind, secretary of the Goochland Electoral Board reported that, disturbed by a lack of uniformity in reporting vote totals, double checked results of the November 8 general election around the Commonwealth. Lind found that, in fact, Goochland’s 84.80 percent voter turnout put it behind other jurisdictions in voter turnout. We needed 19 more voters per precinct to gain the top spot. Powhatan, said Lind, actually had the highest turnout.

Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, announced the upcoming town hall meetings. The meeting for District 2&3 will be held at the Central High School complex on March 21; Districts 4&5 at Hermitage Country Club on March 23; and District 1 at the new Hadensville Company 6 fire-rescue station on March 30. All meeting being at 7 p.m. These meetings will focus on the county budget, but entertain citizen comment on all matters of local interest.

County administrator John Budesky invited all to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Company 6 on Sunday, March 26 at 2 p.m.
The budget cycle, said Budesky, will include a public hearing on the county’s proposed spending plan for Fiscal 2018 on April 4 at 7 p.m. The supervisors will vote on adoption of the budget and tax rates for calendar year 2017 at 3 p.m. on April 18. Citizens are encouraged to share their thoughts and concerns on the proposed budget via phone call, email, or in person. Budesky said that all input and engagement on the budget is welcome and appreciated.

County Human Resources Director Kelly Parrish introduced new county employees, including three advanced life support paramedics.

The supervisors authorized two rabies’ clinics. One on April 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. on the corner of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads in Courthouse Village. The fee is $10 per dog or cat. The second will be on April 29 from nine a.m. until noon at the Fife Company 4 Fire-Rescue station. The fee is $10 per dog or cat.

The supervisors adopted a resolution amending their Rules of Procedure. This change is in response to confusion when more than two supervisors attend meetings other than their own including community meetings for land use changes. The new language in Article 2.2 says that when two or more board members attend community, planning commission, or other meetings concerning public business, they will not consider motions, vote, or take any official action. In compliance with the Virginia Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA), notice of a special meeting will be provided and minutes of the meetings will be maintained.

Our supervisors and planning commissioners are to be commended for their interest in citizen input on local matters, especially land use changes. Some confusion at a recent community meeting prompted the change to ensure that proper disclosure of attendance at these sessions is observed. Visit http://goochlandva.us/158/Board-of-Supervisors for details.

Goochland County Treasurer Pamel Cooke Johnson, MGT, presented background on tax collection in the county.

Johnson, who is a Constitutional Officer elected by the citizens said that people who live in Virginia and own property, real or personal, owe taxes each year. In jurisdictions, including Goochland, the governing board sets tax rates, which are applied to valuations to compute tax bills.

Goochland citizens do a pretty good job of paying their taxes. Johnson reported that, for the most recently reported billing cycle, taxes were collected as follows: 99.06 percent for real-estate; 98.91 percent for personal property tax; and 99.01 per cent overall. Assessments are by the calendar year (January to December) collections are by the fiscal year (July 1 to June 30).

Taxes on machinery, tools and business equipment, are billed one time per year, all other taxes are billed twice per year and these bills are due on June and December 5.

Johnson reminded people to contact the Treasurer’s Office if they have not received their tax bills by either Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving to ensure timely payment. If taxpayers move and do not report their change of address to DMV on their license and auto registration, tax bills will be sent to their old address. Failure to receive a bill does not relieve property owners from additional charged that accrue for payment after the due date.

Since taking office in 2011, Johnson has aggressively pursued collection of delinquent taxes. In some cases, where land owners could not be located, Johnson used available legal remedies to sell land, recover tax liability, and get the land back on the tax rolls with new owners. Some of these were twenty years past due.

She has also worked with land owners behind on their tax obligations to set up payment plans with installment arrangements to help them catch up. State law requires that oldest taxes be paid first and new taxes be paid on time and in full. About half of these plans have been successful.

Penalties for delinquent taxes are stiff. The daily 10 percent penalty begins the day after the due date. Interest at the rate of 10 percent begins to accrue the first day of the following month. Bills contain detailed information about payment options. The first half personal property tax bill includes the vehicle license fee. Filing a high mileage form can reduce personal property taxes.

Johnson said that the Treasurer has a variety of state sanctioned methods for collecting delinquent taxes, which are applied as appropriate. Delinquent bills are mailed twice a year. She said that a number of people prepay their taxes.

Johnson encouraged everyone to read all parts of their tax bills and pay their taxes on time. Visit the Treasurer’s website http://goochlandva.us/290/Treasurers-Office for complete information.