Monday, April 24, 2017


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 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 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, 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 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.