Sunday, October 15, 2017

Doing the math


The Virginia General Assembly defanged the existing law regarding cash proffer policies during its 2016 session.  The new law took effect on July 1, 2016.

Since then local governments and developers have been scratching their heads over the convoluted language of the new law and searching for ways to use the rule change to their advantage. What might be described as the first skirmish in this conflict between Goochland County and developers took place at the October 5 meeting of the Planning Commission.

The agenda contained three residential rezoning applications. One, filed by HHH Land, LLC for a 55 plus community in West Creek, requested, and was granted, a 30 day deferral. Another submitted by Readers Branch Partners, LLC and Hockett Road Partners, LLC included substantially  revised proffers submitted on the day of the meeting. As its bylaws give the Planning Commission the option of declining to hear a case with proffers submitted fewer than eight days before the public hearing, the Commissioners unanimously deferred this case to its November 2 session. These two applications, if approved as submitted, could add more than 800 new homes to the eastern part of Goochland. Both are expected to be heard at the November 2 meeting of the Planning Commission,

A third application, filed by Dover Branch,  LLC for a dozen homes off of Hermitage Road near its intersection with Manakin Road, was heard.  It too submitted revised proffers within the eight day window, but they were deemed not to include substantial changes; the Commissioners waived the rule and heard the case.

Developer, Gibson Wright expressed frustration that he was obligated to go through the entire rigmarole of preparing a development impact statement (DIS) for a few houses that will have no impact on county facilities. There were other difficulties with his case—two different zoning categories in a single subdivision and lot sizes under two acres—that did not hinge on cash proffers. His amended proffers included a $3,063 per home cash proffer.

Wright contended that the studies needed to prepare a DIS “is a burden”  and that it would have been cheaper for him to pay the county’s previous full cash proffer, which was $14,250 per home before the new state law went into effect.

Wright’s application was recommended for approval by a 3-2 split, with Derek Murray, District 3; John Shelhorse, District 4; and John Myers, District 1, voting in favor. Commission chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, and Matt Brewer, District 2, were in dissent. The Planning Commission is an advisory board, the supervisors make the final pronouncement on land use matters.

Before the 2016 legislation, jurisdictions were  able to establish cash proffers—a “voluntary” payment by residential developers to mitigate the impact of new homes on capital infrastructure like schools, fire-rescue stations and equipment; parks; and roads. These amounts were computed with formulas that estimated the burden each new dwelling unit would place on county infrastructure, such as .3 students per home. Salaries for teachers, deputies, fire-rescue providers, and other staff are assumed to be paid for by revenues generated by the ongoing increase in real estate taxes resulting from development.

Goochland also has an EMS cost recovery policy that charges a fee plus a mileage cost for hospital transport that offsets part of the expense of fire-rescue staffing.

Cash proffers apply only to residential rezoning. Each time land is rezoned, it becomes an ordinance—a  law—that applies to the particular property in question. Not all new homes pay proffers. Kinloch, for instance, was zoned before the county adopted a proffer policy in 2000, and pays no proffers. Breeze Hill, currently under construction on Fairground Road, pays about $20 thousand per home, the cash proffer in place when that land was rezoned.

According to comments made by Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter to the Commissioners, Goochland has 39 proffered subdivisions in place— representing 2,336 homes that are zoned but unbuilt—which are estimated to generate more than $18 million. Cash proffers are paid at the time a certificate of occupancy is issued for a new home.

As no rezoning was involved to permit apartments in West Creek, proffers did not apply. However, donation of an as yet unidentified several acre site for a new fire-rescue station within West Creek was part of that arrangement.

The DIS requirement includes mitigation strategies, which may include construction of road improvements.  The catch seems to be that these do not have to take the cumulative effect of many new homes into account. For instance, if a residential project is estimated to add 30 students to the school system, the DIS must only address the expense of those students, not the current capacity of the schools. If those 30 new students increase the school population enough to trigger the need for a new school, the fiscal impact is greater than the additional children in our schools.

Some jurisdictions, like Henrico, do not use cash proffers. Henrico, whose population following the 2010 census was 306,935 versus Goochland’s approximately 21,000, may be better able to absorb increased capital costs by issuing bonds to pay for them and spreading the debt service among its many  residents. Henrico also has an airport, hospitals, malls, and soon a Facebook data center, to generate tax revenue.

Henrico takes care of its own roads, while Goochland is at the mercy of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—for all transportation needs, a cumbersome and slow process.

Therefore, new homes, especially in large numbers,  have a significant impact on our facilities and how they are funded.

Several studies are underway to craft a clear picture of the cost of  responding to population growth, as well as replacing and renovating aging facilities. The school division recently completed a comprehensive facility master plan that includes costs for replacing, expanding and renovating schools. This replaces the long held notion that the county needs to build new elementary school somewhere in the eastern part of the county for about $24 million. A countywide capital impact model based on all of these studies is expected in February, 2018.

Goochland is not the only jurisdiction dealing with these issues, and there is hope that the General Assembly will address the confusion that the 2016 law caused. Until then, the county and developers will continue something akin to a porcupine mating dance as rezoning applications wend their way through the process.





Monday, October 9, 2017

Small town living



Lots of folks say they like Goochland’s rural character and small town atmosphere. Among the “life savors” of small town living are productions staged by the high school drama department.

Next weekend, October 13, 14, and 15, the GHS Drama Department will present “Little Shops of Horrors” in the GHS auditorium.


Lessons learned by the students involved in these plays, from lead actors to set builders who ensure that a myriad of components come together at the right time in the right place, will stand them in good stead wherever life’s journey takes them. Our kids work hard to put on a good show, and deserve a full house at each performance.

Neil Burch, Theater Educator, is entering his seventh year in Goochland. He is a catalyst who helps each of his students find the best within themselves, and best of all, enjoys his work.

Trading ten bucks for a couple of hours of enjoyable entertainment is a good deal. For the students, getting applause from people other than their parents is priceless. For ticket information, visit drama.goochlandschools.org.





Saturday, October 7, 2017

Harvest Moon



As summer fades fast in the rear view mirror, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors worked its way through the waning year at a routine October 3 meeting.

Expansion of the parking lot in front of the administration building continues. A reliable source contends that it will be complete in late November. Leave extra time to find parking when conducting business or attending meetings here.

Goochland General Registrar Frances C. Ragland, who has been recognized numerous times for excellence in performance of her electoral duties, announced her retirement at the end of 2017.

A proclamation recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month and recognizing the contribution made by local organizations, including the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services and Victim Witness Assistance Program, to combat this scourge of society, kicked off the agenda.

Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, announced the upcoming round of district town hall meetings. They are: District 1, October 16 at Hadensville Company 6Fire-Rescue Station; District 4 and 5, October 17 at Hermitage Country Club; and District 2 and 3 at Courthouse Company 5 Fire-Rescue Station. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. An overview of items of interest countywide will begin the sessions followed by question and discussion of matters in interest in each district. If you want to learn more about what is going on in the county and sound off on anything, this is the place to make your voice heard.

County Administrator John Budesky said that the Goochland Fall Festival is coming up on Saturday, October 28 with something for everyone. All events are free.



Budesky said that, due to Election Day, November 7, falling on the regular board meeting day, the November Board meeting will be held the next day, Wednesday, November 8.

Marshall Wynn of VDOT reported that improvements to the Rts. 288/250 intersection in Centerville, which have been approved and funded, have moved into the detailed design phase. He did not mention of this means that the upgrades to this dreadful interchange will be completed before 2020.

New signage for the Fairground Road/Rt/ 250 interchange have been ordered.

The board appropriated up to $60,000 for thirty percent of the cost to design a Three Chopt Road underpass at Rt. 288. Given the time that VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—requires to complete improvements to the Rts. 288/250 interchange, it will be fascinating to see how much this will cost and how long it will take to complete. Would it have been so difficult to preserve the connection for Three Chopt and Ashland Road when Rt.  288 was originally designed? Have these people never heard of the maxim “measure twice, cut once”?


Blair Road has been paved at last!

Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay reported that approximately 60,000 people attended this year’s Field Day of the Past in September. He said that October is fire prevention month and urged everyone to make sure that their homes have an adequate number of working smoke alarms and every family take the time to make and practice an evacuation plan. America, said MacKay, leads the world in residential fire fatalities, but has experience none in public schools. If we can keep our kids safe in school, “why not do it at home?”

Goochland Fire-Rescue, said MacKay, observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also in October, with commemorative tee shirts. This year’s shirt honors the memory of our late County Administrator Rebecca Dickson.
 Lisa Beczkiewicz
Administrative Assistant/Deputy Clerk models the commemorative shirt honoring the late Rebecca Dickson


The Board tended to “housekeeping” matters. It voted  to formally change the name of the Goochland Powhatan Community Services Board to Goochland Powhatan Community Services. 

The supervisors endorsed wider use of the county logo, rather than the county seal, on government vehicles. The logo, which prominently features the words “Goochland County” is easier to read than the seal,  a complicated heraldic symbol. The seal will continue to be used on official documents.



Budesky presented the annual report for FY 2017, which ended on June 30.  He said that the county is working its way through a series of  studies,  and an updated thoroughfare plan reflecting actual growth patterns, to understand all future needs for space, staffing, and equipment countywide. This will provide the basis for a public facilities plan to include parameters that trigger creation of new fire-rescue stations and other capital needs.

The school division is engaged in a similar initiative; the supervisors and school board will hold a joint meeting on November 28 to discuss their needs.

All of this information will  be part of  capital impact model, expected to be completed in February, 2018, to help  gauge the burden new residential projects  place on the county. This will help determine if developers are doing their part to mitigate the strain that their projects place of public facilities and services.

These studies were prompted by revised cash proffer legislation passed in 2016 and the flood of residential rezoning applications lapping at the county’s borders. Goochland’s response to growth should be  a topic at this fall’s Town Hall meetings. 

Paul Drumwright, Administrative Services Manager, presented the first draft of the county’s legislative agenda. This outlines the county’s position on matters that could come before the Virginia General Assembly. Goochland’s envoys in the GA include two delegates, Lee Ware of the 65th District, which includes the western art of the county; an open seat in the 56th District, and 22nd District  Senator Mark Peake, who took office in January.

Goochland has taken great care to keep lines of communication with our GA delegation open. This has resulted in passage of legislation beneficial to the county.

The draft includes evergreen items like requiring political parties to pay for primary elections; the state to reimburse the cost of local electoral boards and registrars; increased regulation of sludge transportation; broadband expansion;  and elimination of the state mandate that the school year being after Labor Day. (See page 89 of the October 3 Board Packet on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ for the complete list.)

One item of particular importance on the legislative agenda is  a clarification of the “capacity of public facilities” used to craft development impact statements that are now a required part of all residential rezoning applications. Another is the restructuring or repeal of the state’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN), which governs when and where new medical facilities can be built.

During even session public hearings, the supervisors approved a Conditional Use Permit for Victory  Christian Church to expand the footprint on its Maidens Road site by approximately 37,000 square feet in the next 30 years. The new space will accommodate a larger auditorium and expanded food pantry area.

A CUP for a199 foot monopole communications tower in the Ashland Road corridor north of Interstate 64 was also approved. The applicant, PI Tower Development, LLC, said that it has a commitment from T-Mobile to locate on the tower and interest from other providers. The tower will increase signal and data capacity for the area.

Revised ordinance amendments for matters including public utilities; fire hydrant painting; and procurement policies to conform with state statues were also approved.








Friday, September 22, 2017

School daze

Gone are the days—with all due apologies to the Adams International School—of the little red schoolhouse meeting all of a community’s educational needs.  Teaching methods are changing to keep pace with our ever evolving world, and schools need to support these changes.  All three of Goochland’s elementary schools Byrd, Goochland, and Randolph, were built more than 50 years ago. Even the “new” high school has been in operation for more than 15 years.

The economy seems to be rebounding and Goochland is finally seeing significant economic development in the eastern end of the county to  counter balance the real estate tax base. Growth in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD) generates additional ad valorem tax to service its debt, enabling the county to address pressing capital improvement needs pushed to the back burner while it got its financial house in order.

Items on the county’s current five year capital improvement plan (CIP) include: a new circuit courthouse; fire-rescue station; emergency apparatus; and a new elementary school.  The notion of building a new elementary school has been around for quite some time, but, due to other debt, was repeatedly kicked down the road. The CIP has a $24 million dollar “placeholder” for a new elementary school to be built somewhere around FY 2020.

For years conventional wisdom had it that the next elementary school would be built on land owned by the county on Hockett Road. As most of the residential growth seems to be in the east end, this seemed a reasonable course of action.

Earlier this year, the supervisors approved a request from the school division to fund the services of  consultant to study all school facilities and make countywide recommendations going forward for a few decades.

This initiative began in the summer and  included a survey and some meetings to discuss the matter. (Sidelined by bodywork, GOMM was unable to attend. However, http://www.dejongrichter.com/goochlandschools/ contains many fascinating details about the county.)

Perhaps the most interesting assumption is that the size of the Goochland public schools' student body will remain around  3,000 for the next five years.  Most of the costs focus on construction or renovation to wind up with a 1,400 student capacity  at the elementary level at either three or four schools. These projections seem to be based on residential building permit data for the past few years, which were depressed by the economic downturn.

Several options were presented for the elementary schools, including razing and rebuilding them on current or new sites. Suggestions were also made to move the Career and Technical Education to the high school campus. Options include modernize existing facilities or replace them. Cost estimates, county wide, not including land acquisition costs range from approximately $49.5 to $61.6 million. The recommendations do not include expansion of athletic facilities, which some respondents to the survey contend are currently inadequate.

While many of the residential developments working their way through the rezoning process target senior citizens and will have no impact on schools, others do not. While it seems almost impossible to gauge how many children will be added to our school division from  resales, it should be addressed. Earlier this year, Director of Community Development JoAnn Hunter said that the bulk of the RES  student increase was caused by resales.

There have as yet been no formal discussions between the supervisors and school board about the matter, or, more importantly, how to pay for new and/or renovated schools. The county issued bonds to pay for the high school at the end of the last century.  Given that we are still carefully working around debt service for the TCSD, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The county is in the process of conducting its own studies to create a more comprehensive CIP to include the courthouse, fire-rescue stations, information system upgrades, and additional space needs for county government.

Funds were recently approved to commission creation of a new master thoroughfare plan to deal with actual development activity, especially in the Hockett Road corridor.

All of these capital improvement studies will help the supervisors get a clear idea of the entire county’s needs going forward so they can make informed decisions about  appropriate and sustainable levels of  residential growth.  

Results of surveys about the school options and the remarks made by those who attended the steering committee meetings, last updated on September 19 are available at:   http://www.dejongrichter.com/goochlandschools/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2017/09/GoochlandCo_CD1_ResultsReport_mts20170919.pdf  These documents are well worth perusing.

The last meeting of the steering committee will be held on Tuesday, September 26 in classroom 143 of Goochland High School at 6 .p.  Recommendations will be made to the School Board at its October 10 meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building.









Thursday, September 14, 2017

End of summer



The September meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors began with recognition of employee service anniversaries. Kelly Parrish, Director of Human Resources, who was celebrating her own fifth year with the county, said that this years’ honorees represented a more than 380 years of service to the community.  Thanks to all of these fine people who keep the county running. (See the September 5 board packet on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ for the complete list.

Deliberations on a proposed roundabout for the Fairground/Sandy Hook Roads intersection consumed a good portion of the afternoon session. (See previous post for details.)

County Administrator John Budesky said that the administration building parking lot renovations should be completed in October and thanked the public for its patience during construction.

The supervisors authorized a rabies clinic scheduled for October 8, which will be held at the corner of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads in Courthouse Village from 2 to 4 p.m. A fee of $10 per cat or dog will be charged.

A  renewal of the performance contract between Goochland County and the Goochland Powhatan Community Services Board and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services was approved.  For fiscal year 2018, which began on July 1, Goochland and Powhatan citizens have access to $4,063,511 in services, of which Goochland provides  $268,730 in its annual budget. The CSB provides services for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues for Goochland citizens. . (See board packet for complete agreement and visits http://www.gpcsb.org/ to learn more about the CSB.)
  

An additional $15,000 was appropriated to complete the Centerville streetscape project, whose initial budget was $70,000. The project, which will include installation of paver “noses” at the intersection of Broad Street and Ashland Roads, is expected to be complete by October 15.

The supervisors appropriated up to $200,000 and authorized Budesky to execute a contract with a consultant to develop a new major thoroughfare plan for the county. Given that the last MTP was developed in 2005, and development is occurring in different places and ways than anticipated 12 years ago, this is a good move. The county needs current, detailed data about the impact of development on our roads to be able to gauge the cost and other consequences of new projects.

Barbara Horlacher, Director of Financial Services, presented an estimate of Goochland’s fiscal position as of the close of the 2017 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. Revenues are expected to have exceeded expenditures by approximately $5.2 million, final numbers are not quite in. There is a long list of possible uses for the “excess” including the appropriations for the streetscape and MTP.

Good stewardship of public funds  is the basis for every action taken by the current Board of Supervisors. At a meeting of the county Audit Committee, which assists the Board in  financial oversight reporting responsibilities, earlier on September 5, changes were recommended.

Going forward, the name will be the Goochland County Finance and Audit Committee. It will consist of three board members, the county administrator and director of financial services. Staff support will be provided by school administration; the Treasurer’s office and Commissioner of the Revenue’s office as preferred by the Committee.

The Committee will recommend appointment and dismissal of independent auditors and work  with them on the scope and approach,  and provide input on special areas of attention for the annual audit.

 The Committee will review the findings and recommendations of the auditors and the administration response regarding internal controls and review financial policies as needed.

Revised financial management policies were approved and are included in the board packet. This includes limiting  indebtedness to a 2.75 percent of the estimated market value of taxable property and debt service costs to 12 percent of  total general fund expenditures.

According to the policy document, the Commonwealth of Virginia imposes no statutory limit on the amount of debt a locality can issue. Limiting debt service, the document states, provides flexibility for other expenses in the budget.

The policy also states that the county will maintain a revenue stabilization reserve of at least one percent of the total annual adopted budget plus the non-local portion of the school operating budget.  This is sometimes referred to as a rainy day fund. Given the steadfast resolve of this board to operate local government in a fiscally responsible manner, rains of the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey over Houston would need to fall before this fund is touched.

The supervisors also referred ordinance amendments concerning chicken keeping by right in R-1 Districts, which was initiated by residents in James River Estates; to clarify and expand activities permitted at wineries, breweries, and distilleries; and require applicants for land use changes to file an affidavit disclosing the names and addresses of all parties with an interest in the real property, which is the subject of the application to the planning commission for consideration.








Thursday, September 7, 2017

The music goes round and round



On Tuesday, September 5, the Goochland Board of Supervisors voted 4-1—with Susan Lascolette, District 1 in dissent—to build a roundabout at the intersection of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads in Courthouse Village and unanimously passed a resolution to apply for revenue sharing associated with the project.

Lascolette said that her constituents prefer a signalized intersection and expressed skepticism at contentions that roundabouts are safer than signalized intersections.

The roundabout will be part of the extension of Fairground Road to Rt. 6 west of Goochland Elementary School, which has been in the conceptual stage for quite some time.

Right now, the intersection is dysfunctional at best, especially during peak travel hours. It is not usual for vehicles to pile up as motorists try to turn onto Sandy Hook Road. During a public comment that was part of the supervisors’ discussion of the matter, District 2 Planning Commissioner Matt Brewer commented that he sat at the stop sign at the intersection for the duration of an entire song on his radio while waiting to turn left in midafternoon.

According to the documentation on the matter, see http://www.goochlandva.us/DocumentCenter/View/3980, this intersection is number eight on the top ten hit parade of crash prone areas in Goochland. As Courthouse Village grows, congestion there will get worse.

The notion of a roundabout, which keeps traffic moving, albeit slowly, through an intersection, has been around for a while and was approved in 2008, but funding evaporated during the recession.

The cost to build a roundabout, $3.9 million will be split evenly between the county and VDOT. (The presentation shows that Goochland and VDOT will each chip in $1.9 million. GOMM’s liberal arts math skills adds 1.9 and 1.9 and comes up with $3.8 million. Guess the extra $100K  is for contingencies?).

A roundabout requires more land than an enhanced signalized intersection and costs an additional $300 thousand. The ballfield on Sandy Hook Road will be relocated to the Central High School complex on  Dogtown Road.

Construction for either option is expected to take about a year, and be completed  in 2022. 

A roundabout keeps traffic moving, while vehicles stop in each direction during a signal cycle at a traffic light. As the wait at each “arm” of the traffic signal grows with the number of vehicles, impatient drivers will be more likely to “run the light” paving the way for increased wrecks.

Heavier traffic will require more “storage”  lanes on all sides of the intersection. At some point, traffic  will back up to the entrance to  Courthouse Commons Shopping Center creating gridlock. Vehicles do not stop when negotiating a roundabout, so it would not need to be enlarged as traffic volume grows. The roundabout as planned is expected to handle anticipated traffic flow through 2043.

Opponents of roundabouts contend that they confuse drivers and lead to more wrecks. They also argue that large trucks may be too large to negotiate a roundabout. VDOT and the Timmons Group engineering firm insist that the roundabout template  used in the computer aided design (CAD) software will be large enough to accommodate log, chicken, and perhaps most important, emergency apparatus. Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay has allegedly endorsed the roundabout option because it enables continuous free flow of traffic.

However, this roundabout will be built by VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—the  same bunch whose engineers used too tight a turn template when designing the Manakin/Broad Street Road improvements. This caused several large trucks to get stuck turning that corner. While the error was eventually fixed at VDOT’s expense, the money  could have been used on another project.

Should a traffic signal pole be damaged during an accident, one engineer said, it would need to be completely rebuilt from its foundation up. By contrast, damage caused by accidents in roundabouts tends to involve curbs and vegetation. Another distinction is that roundabouts do not shut down during power failures and eliminate waiting for green lights when there is no other traffic.

Pedestrians  negotiate roundabouts by crossing only a single traffic lane, not the entire intersection. Splitter  lanes include clearly marked walkways. Drivers yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks. Detectable warning surfaces that signal a change from concrete to asphalt  help the visually challenged realize that they are entering a crosswalk. It is incumbent upon the motor vehicles, by Virginia law, to stop in advance of the roundabout.
The hashed lines on the "arms" are pedestrian crosswalks. 


Experienced bicyclists have a choice of dismounting and walking through the crosswalks, or riding with traffic at the 20 miles per hour speed. Bicyclists on  pavement are considered vehicles and must yield to pedestrians.

Lascolette pointed out that cyclists are not required to obtain any sort of training. She asked if there was any data to compare intersection safety before and after conversion to roundabouts. In the last five years, a VDOT engineer said, roundabouts have gotten  much better, but was not aware of any data supporting  this contention.

Lascolette said that she received at least 70 comments from her constituents and businesses in the area preferring the traffic signal. She said she has been unable to find studies supporting the contention that the roundabouts are safer.

Assistant County Administrator Todd Kilduff and the VDOT engineers contended that there are fewer crashes in roundabouts than in signalized intersections and those that do occur are of the less serious sideswipe variety versus angle crashes.

Kilduff dispelled the notion that the entire intersection would be closed for a year during construction. Instead, he said, lanes may be closed, but traffic will still be able to move through the intersection. The first few weeks will be critical as motorists adjust to new conditions.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. asked if the county could change its mind if the ultimate cost came in significantly higher. Kilduff said the cost estimates are based on future values. Goochland County Administrator John Budesky said that if costs increase the county and VDOT will need to appropriate additional funds or scrap the project.

Remarks by VDOT on other subjects gave little cause for comfort.

Later in the meeting a VDOT engineer explained the complexity of the approved and funded “fix” for the Broad Street Road/Rt. 288 interchange. There are 95 separate tasks and “450 days of engineering” needed to complete that project.
However, he also indicated that “plan” has already changed eliminating a second exit lane and eastbound traffic signal. This partially explains why it will take up to five years get this work done. This is all too reminiscent of the decade or so during which VDOT held meetings to explain in detail how Broad Street Road in Centerville would be widened, only to have the final product look nothing like the initial concept.

The success of a roundabout, or more complicated signalized intersection for that matter, depends on the behavior of motorists.  Goochland has its share of bad drivers. No road improvements can prevent people who ignore speed limits and recklessly disregard rules of the road from causing accidents. We all need to be a little more careful when we drive, especially on Goochland’s narrow roads, to  get where we’re going in a safe and efficient manner.

May the roundabout be built with minimal disruption and function as promised




Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hit the ground leaping



In addition to the first total eclipse in 99 years, Monday, August 21 marks the start of the Goochland school.

As is its custom, our school division gets the ball rolling with an annual convocation, this year held on August 14, to bring every member of “team Goochland” together for an energizing pep rally. The buzz of excitement battled with the strains “Stayin’ Alive” as people greeted old friends and met new ones filing into the high school auditorium.
 
BES Principal James Hopkins' happy dance

The joy of the day was perhaps best illustrated by James Hopkins, principal of Byrd Elementary School, who did a happy dance to greet the members of the BES team. Smiles, hugs, and laughter was  the order of the day.

Following the presentation of the colors by the GHS Marine Junior ROTC color guard and pledge of allegiance complete with the unofficial last two words “play ball,” Dr. Stephen Geyer took the microphone. He welcomed an amazing team to an incredible school community. “This is an amazing place for our students and an amazing place to work,” he said.

Out school board, said Geyer, is an active and integral part of our team. Their partnership with our board of supervisors allows students and teachers alike to take risks and thrive.

School  Board Chair Person Beth Hardy District 4 gave a special welcome to the highly talented group of educators who teach our children. Collaboration among students, teaches, staff, and leadership team makes GCPS a great place to work as it provides the best preparation for all students wherever their life’s journey may take them.

“Your unparalleled dedication is humbling,” Hardy said. “The magic in the school day happens in the classroom. The magic is you and what you bring every day. Thank you and have an amazing year.”

Dr. John Herndon, Director of Innovation and Strategy, discussed the G21 Awards made possible by the Goochland Education Foundation (goochlandedu.org) to encourage deeper learning. GHS career and technical education and  physical education won the gold ($300) for designing, building and using an archery range.

Fourth grade teachers at Randolph Elementary School won silver ($200) for improving the nature trails around the school.

Collaboration between a librarian and counselor at Goochland Elementary won Bronze ($100)  for a project using Scratch software to combine core values and coding.

Service awards presented. Team Goochland has a gracious plenty of folks who are here year in and year out.  Bryan Gordon and Priscilla Garrant with 30 years of service and Josie Gray with 35 years in our schools were praised with a thundering standing ovation.

 Last year’s teacher of the year Joe Beasely exhorted his colleagues to make every second of their time with students count, celebrate the milestones achieved by the GCPS winning team, and cheer each other on to bigger victories.

This year’s teacher of the year, Jennifer Gates, reminded other teachers “to never lose sight of who you are and your decision to become an educator. “It takes grit—passion and perseverance—to reach success.

 Guest speaker Dr. John Almarode of James Madison University contended that a teacher’s belief system is far more important to the success of a student than the transfer of a particular body of information. “Do you hose them down with information and pray that something sticks? Or are they better off for having spent a few hours with you?” he asked.
Dr. John Almarode offered insights about successful teaching



Goochland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Raley said that the convocation filled about two hours celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and setting the tone for that about to start. “I’ve had a chance to see all of the amazing things you do for our kids every day to help them succeed. Our core value of optimism is not just a word on a page, it’s who we are,” he said.

“On Monday, they’re coming and they count on us to make appositive impact in their life and say ‘I believe in you’. It doesn’t matter what’s on your badge, we’re all one team. We are a very successful school division, but there are still kids we have not reached. By letting them know that we believe they can, they will succeed.”

The band provided a rousing conclusion to Convocation 2017


Go team Goochland! We look forward to seeing what new heights of accomplishment you reach in the coming school year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dog days

Dog days
The Goochland Board of Supervisors literally began its August work with a dog related event (see GOMM Ready, set dig) before its monthly meeting.

Dr. Gary Rhodes, President of Reynolds Community College—it lost “J. Sarge” a few years ago—made his annual report to the board. The close partnership that RCC has with our school division, Dr. Stephen Geyer is on its board, is good for everyone. Rhodes explained the role that RCC has in workforce development and serving the community. Visit http://www.reynolds.edu/ and take a spin around the website for a wide range of information and course offerings at the Goochland Campus.

At the other end of the education spectrum, early life education, representatives from Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond (http://smartbeginningsrva.org/)explained to the supervisors the importance of ensuring that every child is ready to start school, and the return on investment for making that happen.  The Board adopted a resolution recognizing the  Regional Plan for School Readiness 2017-2020. The Goochland School Board also adopted this resolution.

Perhaps the most noted current activity of local government is the removal of the old growth trees in front of the administration building to expand the parking lot. The admin building, AKA the old high school, is a massive structure at the corner of Sandy Hook Road and River Road West. Those trees, even when winter bare, softened the appearance of the building and tethered it to the ground. Now, the building sits in stark relief to its background with the lights from the field behind it sticking out like sore thumbs. Parking lot renovations are expected to take 60 to 90 days.

The admin building shorn of its tree cover.


In addition to new parking, the admin building is straining at the seams. Since moving into the renovated building 12 years ago, county staff has increased. In order to better use existing space, the supervisors authorized County Administrator John Budesky to execute a contract with HBA Architecture & Interior Design, Inc. for $225,000 for services related to a county government space study and  planning consultant. (See August 1 board packet for contract details.)

The study is expected to identify long term space allocations and future needs. Recent renovations in the Community Development Department that incorporated the wide high school hallway into office and other workspace is a good example of rethinking use of existing space.

As applications for residential rezonings have increased, the supervisors authorized Budesky to execute a contract for $99,080 with TischlerBise, Inc. to complete a capital impact study and model. The product of this study will be used to help the supervisors gauge the  capital impacts of new development by type of land use and determine if there is existing capacity to handle the new development and appropriate mitigation for deficiencies. (See page 249 of the August 1 board packet for complete details.)

The county needs its own assessment of development impact on core services including law enforcement, fire-rescue, and schools rather than depending on studies prepared by consultants retained by developers. Raising taxes on existing land owners to pay for new development is a flawed policy. The study will take four months to complete.

The supervisors adopted a resolution approving the issuance of $76.5 million hospital facility revenue bonds by the Economic Development Authority as a conduit issuer on behalf of The Sheltering Arms Corporation. Proceeds from sale of these tax exempt bonds will be used to finance construction of a 175,000 square foot rehabilitation hospital in the Notch portion of West Creek. The EDA is expected to approve the bond issuance at its August 16 meeting. This action does not financially obligate Goochland County is any way.

During evening public hearings, the board approved the renewal of a conditional use permit for Donna Reynolds operating the Bandit’s Ridge event venue. Last year, the supervisors granted a very short term CUP for Reynolds in spite of objections from neighbors. Reynolds built a very soundproof barn to contain the noise. Public hearings before both the Planning Commission and Supervisors seem to indicate that the issues between Reynolds and her neighbors have been resolved.

For further information, see the complete Board packet at the supervisors’ tab on the Goochland County website: http://goochlandva.us/






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Changing horses mid-stream



Goochland County is growing, especially in West Creek and the Broad Street Road corridor of the Centerville Village. Last week, citizens raised serious objections to rezoning applications.

Any landowner has the right to apply for a zoning change. This involves a lengthy and sometimes expensive process that includes community meetings and public hearings before the planning commission and supervisors. There is no guarantee than any application for a land use change will be approved.


During the citizen comment period in at the Supervisors’ August 1 evening session, two adjacent property owners opposed a rezoning application, which has not yet made it to the planning commission, for the Hunt Club Hill subdivision on the south side of Three Chopt Road between Broad Street and Manakin Roads.

First zoned for residential use in early 2003, Hunt Club Hill, near the Deep Run Hunt Club, was an early example of rural preservation (RP) zoning. The plan “on the books” for this community contains bridle trails and continued agricultural use of the open space (preservation tract).

The rezoning application in the works would increase the number of allowed homes from 34 to 49—if more than 50 homes are in a subdivision, a second entrance must be provided— with far less open space and no bridle trails.
Under current zoning, this portion of Hunt Club Hill would not change. Homes would be built behind the tree line


Three Chopt Road is narrow and often used as a cut through between Broad Street and Manakin Roads. Both termini involve tricky turns onto busy roads. After years of discussion and engineering studies, VDOT improvements to the Three Chopt/Manakin Road intersection resulted in a new pipe under Manakin Road to control storm water without inundating homes on the east side of Manakin Road; removal of a large tree on the corner; deepening the ditch on the west side; and adding about a yard of new pavement.

This section of road is also the only access to the Alvis Dairy Farm, one of the largest agricultural operations in the county and lined with crop fields and livestock operations.

The approved version of Hunt Club Hill  has home sites nestled in the woods with little or no change to the view shed of trees and fields. There is no sound rationale for adding 15 more homes and shrinking the open space. More about this if it proceeds through the rezoning process.

Residents of Creekmore, an upscale community of charming custom homes nestled up to the Richmond Country Club, turned out to the August 3 planning commission meeting in force to protest a rezoning application for land that sits between their homes and Route 6 filed by the Creekmore Group, LLC.

(District 4 Planning Commissioner John Shelhorse is, according to the application, the managing member of Creekmore Group LLC. Accordingly, he recused himself from all discussion and voting on the matter, and left the room during deliberations.)

When Creekmore was created in 2002, the parcels along Rt. 6 were rezoned residential office (RO) for five, five thousand square foot office buildings, which  never materialized. An application to change the zoning from RO-residential office to B-1, business general was accompanied by an application for a conditional use permit to build a 48,000 square foot two story self-storage facility and two five thousand square foot single story office buildings on the site. The proposal would represent a potential square footage 58,000 square feet, more than double that currently allowed.

The self-storage facility would be of the same design and materials as one recently built on the corner of Blair Road and Rt.6, but larger. (A year or so ago, a rezoning application for retail use of land on Rt. 6 east of Creekmore was rejected after vigorous position from homeowners. Town homes are currently under construction on that property.)

The county’s comprehensive land use plan  designates this area for office use, no retail, compatible with the surrounding area only.

The rezoning application touts a ”tree save” area to preserve existing trees between the proposed self-store and nearby homes. As one resident pointed out, those trees are deciduous and provide screening for only a portion of the year. The back of her home would have a semi-obscured view of  bay doors at the rear of a metal building.

Creekmore homeowners understood when they purchased their property that residential scale office buildings had been approved between the community and Route 6 and prefer that configuration to the new proposal. Protestations by the applicant that the new plan would generate far less traffic fell on deaf ears.

Opponents contended that rezoning the subject property would set a precedent for additional B-1 zoning along Rt. 6. A recent decision by the supervisors to permit mixed use on the former Oak Hill golf course property at the intersection of Rts. 288 and 6, which is  part of the West Creek business park, was interpreted by many long term residents as a betrayal of the county’s implied promise to keep commercial development off of Rt. 6.  Existing  commercial development on Rt. 6. east of Creekmore includes the aforementioned self-store, a kitchen showroom and other modest businesses.

A petition signed by 121 people opposing the change in land use was presented to the commission at the beginning of the hearing.

Objections included a negative impact on property values, which Creekmore homeowners contended have not yet rebounded to pre-recession levels, run off,  type of materials stored; truck noise, and unknown consequences if the storage business should fail.

Darvin Satterwhite, presenting the applications for the Creekmore Group contended that the new proposal is better because it includes more screening, fewer parking spaces, and would generate far less traffic than the current zoning.

In essence, Creekmore homeowners believe that it is unfair to change the zoning after people invested their money to purchase expensive homes based on an understanding that residential scale offices only could be built between their community and Rt. 6.

As one person put it “these (Creekmore) homes would not have been built if there was a warehouse there. This could set a precedent to create a “warehouse row” along Rt. 6, which is not in keeping with rural character. I bought my house in the good faith that the developer would keep his word.”

The commissioners, some of whom visited homes at the edge of Creekmore to gauge the impact of the proposal, agreed with the homeowners and voted 4-0 to deny recommendation of approval. The application can now move to the supervisors for final disposition.

Commission chair Tom Rockecharlie District 5, said that people who buy homes on a certain premise expect to be protected from changes like this. He also said that the proposed buildings are not residential in scale.

Matt Brewer, District 2 said that the land near Creekmore is not the right location for this type of facility.

In both of these instances, little has changed since the current zoning was put in place. There is no compelling reason to add more homes in Hunt Club Hill. Demand for commercial property on Rt. 6 west of Rt. 288 has yet to be proven.  Even dressed up with nicer building materials and landscaping, self-storage facilities are still warehouses and should be located in industrial, rather than residential, areas.

The current zoning for both of these properties still seems appropriate. Improving market appeal is not sufficient justification for altering the character of established areas and changing horses in midstream.















Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ready, set, dig

Breaking ground for the new shelter


During a brief respite from the blowtorch of summer, Goochland  held a ceremonial groundbreaking for our new animal shelter near Hidden Rock Park on August 1. 

Georgette Griffin, John Budesky, Ned Creasey, Ken Peterson, Tom Winfree


Goochland Board of Supervisors’ Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, welcomed a good sized group of citizens. “This is what proves we’re human,” Creasey said of the planned shelter. He thanked everyone involved in transforming the planned state-of-the-art facility from notion to reality.  He marveled at the generosity of the community that dug deep to fund the new Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services headquarters while also supporting the new shelter.. It all began a few years ago, said Creasey, when Becky Dickson, former county administrator, dispatched Lisa Beczkiewicz to “straighten things out” at the animal shelter. Her report led to Becky “having an idea,” which blossomed into the shelter.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Ken Peterson District 5, said that the shelter is another example of how Goochlanders pull together to solve a problem and close ranks to get it done.

Dr. Lori Elliott, DVM, whose generous donations of her time and talents working with Goochland Animal Protection Services, recalled the many conversations and meetings with Becky and other interested parties about how to make the special new shelter happen.

Current Goochland County Administrator John Budesky said he is honored to take a project Becky started and bring it across the finish line.

Tom Winfree, president of Goochland Pet Lovers, an organization formed specifically to raise funds and friends for the new shelter, thanked his volunteers, especially Kathy and Richard Verlander, who chair the capital campaign, for their efforts. He announced that Becky’s husband Dennis Proffit and sister Deborah Starns, have joined the GPL board. He thanked many people for making the day possible, including Wanda Tormey, Director of Purchasing, and County Attorney Tara McGee for handling all of the contractual details.

Tim Clough, Director of Animal Protection—notice that in Goochland it is not called animal control—said the new shelter will be an awesome facility that will have lots of room to accommodate volunteers, unlike the current building.

Dr. Lori Elliott, DVM, Tim Clough, Director of Animal Protection

No discussion of animal protection efforts in Goochland would be complete with mention of FLAG—For Love of Animals in Goochland—the volunteer organization that rescued many animals and found them forever homes. Last summer, FLAG announced that, after 30 years of wonderful work, it was closing. Georgette Griffin, said that FLAG was passing the torch to GPL to continue its work and wished the new organization greatest success. To  continue its legacy, FLAG has donated more than $200,000 to the new shelter including $75,000 for the spay and neuter clinic.

Winfree announced that so far, GPL has raised $831,454 of its $1.5 million goal.

The contract to build the shelter was awarded to BFE Construction, Inc. and is expected to be open for business by the fall of 2018. For more information, visit http://www.goochlandpetlovers.com.

Danielle Bowers, Sean Bowers of BFE Construction, and District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick


Monday, July 31, 2017

Get involved with Goochland

Do you know who your county supervisor is and who represents you in the Virginia General Assembly? Do you know when the school year begins in Goochland and why?  Did you know that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state and what that means? Do you know how Goochland got its name and what happened here during the American Revolution and Civil War?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, you’re not alone. If you would like to learn more—in addition to reading GOMM—Goochland Leadership Enterprise is the answer.

Created in 1996 to identify potential future leaders and educate citizens about the advantages and challenges Goochland faces, GLE connects Goochlanders from all walks of life and corners of the county.  A series of biweekly classes  explores the many facets of the county and provides a mechanism for newcomers and longtime residents alike to discuss and perhaps take part in shaping the county’s future.

Subjects range from an overview of local history to the county budget process and  include education—our schools are something to brag about—economic development, law enforcement, fire-rescue, and volunteer organzations.

Running from September to mid-March, sessions are held mostly on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. at locations all over the county to showcase all that Goochland has to offer. There is also a Legislative Day in Richmond during the General Assembly Session where participants get an inside look at state government and a chance to talk with our legislative delegation.

Graduates of the GLE program are a vital part of every organization in the county. Several are or have been supervisors, school board members, Christmas Mothers, and one blogs.

For additional information, brochure, and applications  for GLE call the Goochland Extension Office at 804-556-5841.



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Playing Chicken

At first blush, the 520 home 55 plus community planned by HHHunt, of Wyndham and Wellesley fame, seems to be a win for Goochlanders tired of large homes on acreage who want to stay in the county.

The residential enclave, as yet unnamed, offers the usual amenities associated with upscale senior communities found in other areas. ) see https://www.hhhuntcommunities.com/whats-happening/goochland-county-va.html for details.)

It will be located east of Hockett Road in West Creek, convenient to Short Pump well away from rural areas. The community will add to the value of land in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, and the county as a whole. It will bring more affluent  rooftops to the Centerville area. The community will add no children to our schools. GOMM is contemplating relocating its world headquarters there.

What’s not to like? Many Goochlanders would say “pretty much everything.” The drawbridge folks, those who believe “I’m here so pull up the drawbridge and don’t let anyone else in,” contend that Goochland is just find the way it is.

Traffic is increasing at an alarming rate in the east end. Any new project, either residential or commercial will just make it worse. Adding turn lanes, and traffic signals, all slow to appear thanks to VDOT rules, only help so much. According to information presented by HHHunt, traffic at retirement communities is spread throughout the day, rather than concentrated at peak hours, even though some residents may still work.

Given all of the onsite amenities, including a pool, fitness center, clubhouse, and walking trails, HHHunt officials contend that residents will find plenty to do within the community and spend most of their time there.

One reason to leave that few people contemplate is a medical emergency. Goochland is blessed with highly skilled emergency medical service (EMS) recognized often for its excellence. In May, Goochland EMS received  the Silver Mission Lifeline award for its demonstrated ability to deliver high quality care to their cardiac patients, providing life-saving care during transport to an appropriate care facility. But, our EMS is already feeling the strain of meeting increasing demand for service by a growing and aging population. 

Unlike Henrico, which has a long established career fire-rescue department, Goochland uses a combination career/volunteer service. As demand grows and volunteer participation declines, responding to EMS calls is a timely manner  is a challenge.

The need for a new fire-rescue station on a site proffered by West Creek, will be pushed over the tipping point by the advent of the HHHunt community.  According to information provided by Goochland County, in 2016, EMS transported 1,574 patients county wide. Of those, 932 were over 55 years of age, with an average age of 57. 

This major influx of new residents—Goochland currently has about 8,500 homes with more on the way, and 22,500 people—will further stress emergency services.

The cost of hiring new deputies and fire-rescue providers is assumed to be covered by the increase in real estate and other local taxes resulting from new construction. Potentially staggering capital costs of building  and equipping new fire-rescue stations ($4.3 million for the new Hadensville station, which already had apparatus) and buying ambulances (approximately $500 thousand fully equipped) and fire trucks is another matter.

Until 2016, when the Virginia General Assembly defanged cash proffer rules, localities, including Goochland, could accept “voluntary” cash payments from developers requesting residential rezoning to offset capital costs generated by their projects.

Maximum cash proffer amounts were calculated using demand generators like .3 children per home and so forth. In kind contributions, like widening Hockett Road in front of the Parke at Centerville, were also accepted.

In June, Goochland adopted a new cash proffer policy in line with the state law that requires applicants for residential rezoning—commercial projects are evaluated in a different manner—to submit a detailed plan to mitigate increased capital costs generated by their new homes.

HHHunt—and there are undoubtedly other developers behind them—hired a traffic engineer to review the impact of its new enclave on roads and a consultant to study the impact on fire-rescue services.

Given the vagueness of the new state proffer law, developers could sue the county if a rezoning application was denied because the supervisors deem that the mitigation plan inadequate. If the supervisors approve the rezoning without suitable funds for increased capital needs, a  tax hike could be in the cards for everyone.

It is in the best interests of residential developers to work with the county to ensure adequate fire-rescue  and law enforcement coverage. People moving to Goochland from Henrico, for instance,  expect an ambulance, fire truck, or deputy to arrive at their door in short order following a 911 call. Less than stellar emergency response could hurt sales.

Regardless of who pays, the supervisors must ensure adequate levels of law enforcement and fire-rescue services for the entire county.  Building facilities, hiring, training, and equipping the people who keep us safe takes time. Waiting until new residents overwhelm the system is playing chicken.










Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mother may I?

County and school officials meet with Del. Lee  Ware and Senator Mark Peake 

Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities like Goochland County have only those powers given to them by the General Assembly. The Virginia General Assembly consists of 100 delegates and 40 senators. It is a part-time legislature, meeting 60 days in even number years and 45 days in odd numbered years. Each years, thousands of pieces of legislation are considered.

Our population of approximately 22,000 earns us a three representative delegation to the GA: 65th District Delegate Lee Ware; 22nd District Senator Mark Peake; and 56th District Delegate Peter Farrell, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

A June primary selected two candidates, Democrat Melissa Dart and Republican John McGuire, who will run to replace Farrell in November. Francis Stevens will oppose Ware. All candidates attended.

To ensure that its concerns about the ramifications and unintended consequences of existing laws and pending legislation, Goochland holds an annual meeting between our supervisors, school officials, constitutional officers, and county and school staff and legislative delegation. This year’s event occurred on Tuesday, June 11 and lasted for about two hours in late afternoon.

Topics on the agenda underscored state involvement in local governance and ranged from expansion of broadband, a priority item for both the county and schools, to the ability of the Goochland Drive in Theater to place a directional sign on Interstate 64 and the need for Goochland to request an annual waiver to start the school year before Labor Day.

Ware praised Goochland for its proactive legislative stance, stating that our county is a model for other localities. He mentioned some accomplishments of the 2017 GA session including salary increases for Virginia State Police, deputies, and state employees. The law enforcement pay situation was particularly dire as starting troopers and deputies with families qualified for food stamps.

Virginia, said Ware, was also able to repay a 2008 loan to the Virginia Retirement System. The VRS recently announced a more than 11 percent return, more than the seven percent assumed interest rate, which has put the system in a good situation. Now the GA needs to move state employees to a defined contribution retirement benefit so Virginia does not find itself downing in a tsunami of unfunded pension liability.

Peake, who succeeded Tom Garrett on the first day of the 2017 session after winning a special election, echoed Ware’s contention that trooper and deputy pay adjustments were a “big issue” directly connected to the perception of Virginia as a good place to do business. Peake said a sound budget is of utmost importance and that the GA should never borrow from VRS again. He commended Goochland schools and the county for their accomplishments and fiscal discipline.

Goochland County Administration John Budesky thanked Administrative Services Manager Paul Drumwright for organizing the meeting and being county point man on legislative activities.

Robin Lind, secretary of the Goochland Electoral Board, once again asked that the state reimburse localities for the entire cost of electoral board mileage and General Registrars as required by the Code of Virginia. Lind pointed out that “money that balances the state budget often is taken from localities.” He also repeated his “forlorn hope” that the GA will find a way for political parties to select their candidates on their own dime instead of holding primary elections funded by localities.

Given the amount of money that political parties spend on television ads, robo calls, and endless mailers, they should be able to spare some change to fund their own primaries.

Lind supported a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study and thorough audit of the state department of elections to restore accountability.

Ware concurred about the local election funding mandate and importance of the integrity of the electoral process and said he would be glad to carry that bill.

Peake asked is all elections cost the same? Lind said the cost depends on the number of officers of elections that need to be retained. Ware commended Lind and Goochland General Registrar Frances Ragland—the best in the Commonwealth—for providing excellent information about the cost of elections that he uses to engage and inform his colleagues about related matters.

Peake said that he does not know much about “ag matters” as he did not have time to prepare.

One “evergreen” item on Goochland’s legislative agenda is sludge, the end product of municipal wastewater treatment plants. A few years back the GA decided that counties could not prohibit the practice of spreading sludge on fields within their borders.

This year’s sludge issue is transportation related. Sludge applied to fields in Goochland originates at wastewater treatment plants in northern Virginia. It is transported in large trucks that travel during predawn hours. The rumble of these trucks on narrow county roads is a nuisance to those who live along the roads, and the trucks exceed the speed limit and drive in the middle of the road. In the past year, some of those trucks have overturned spilling their cargo into creeks.

The large trucks deliver the sludge to a storage site in Goochland for local distribution, often via “farm” vehicles that are not required to be licensed, inspected, insured. Goochland would like regulation on the time of transport and local vehicles.

The nationally renowned Goochland Drive-In theater near Hadensville (http://www.goochlanddriveintheater.com/) wants to announce its presence to motorists on Interstate 64. For some bizarre reason, drive in theaters—according to District 1 supervisor Susan Lascolette, there are only six in the entire state—are not on the approved list of businesses that can use the signs announcing attractions at an exit.

The drive-in owner, explained Lascolette, will gladly pay the cost of installing the signage. Once again, silly regulations with no clear purpose throw roadblocks in the path of small business. Peake said that matter could be brought up at the next meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board to start the conversation about resolving the matter administratively.

Broadband expansion was mentioned by both the supervisors and school officials. Among the impediments to expansion is the prohibition for providers other than Comcast and Verizon to operate in Goochland. Easing regulations that prevent competition could help solve the problem.

School Board Chairperson Beth Hardy, District 4, seemed to allude to a comment made by Peake during a January candidate forum when he dismissed broadband as an entertainment medium when she stated that access to broadband is an important educational and economic issue. While Goochland schools do not assign homework that requires internet access, students without are at a significant disadvantage to their peers able to go online for research, creating a big gap between students and teachers in the eastern and western ends of Goochland.

Goochland School Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley said that as the number of k-12 students rises, it is harder to attract and hire teachers. He asked for greater flexibility to apply credentialing criteria that maintain high standards to address the teacher shortage.

Raley contended that communities and their school divisions know best how to run their schools and asked that the post Labor Day start requirement be relaxed. (This was put into place some time ago to boost late summer attendance at state amusement parks.)

Raley said that new regulations regarding student discipline “handcuff” school administrations from addressing the individual needs of students. “There is no one size fits all approach to discipline. We know our students and we know what is appropriate.”

Peake concurred saying that localities should be in charge of their school districts and employ common sense and discretion in dealing with students that do not fit in. The new rules, he said, are well intentioned, but misguided.

Other issues touched on were the certificate of public need (COPN) policy, which requires healthcare providers to justify the need for expansion of hospitals and other care facilities. Legislation to either repeal or reform this practice, which stifles competition, is badly needed.

The hastily passed and poorly written legislation concerning proffers passed in 2016 was not addressed in the 2017 session leaving localities like Goochland twisting in the wind as they seeks ways to mitigate the impact of new residential development. Ware said that this and the COPN issue need to be addressed.

Peake was unfamiliar with the proffer issue but said that the COPN matter must be addressed.

Ken Peterson , District 5 raised concerns about the state’s financial positions. Even though Goochland is experiencing an economic resurgence, Virginia as a whole is slipping. The state’s Standard& Poor’s rating has declined in the past few years, making it more difficult to compete with the like of North Carolina. He asked what will happen if gridlock in Washington results in another sequestration.

Ware contended that Virginia is competitive with nearby states, working hard to remain a low tax state and maintain a fiscally responsible tradition. The GA will responsibly handle fiscal matters that come before it.
The county and schools will refine their legislative wish list over the next few months before submission to the delegation at the end of the year.