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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It does not seem that this was a particularly tough decision for Supervisor Peterson. What is the point in having district-based supervisors if they do not see a responsibility for the district? Instead, those at the epicenter of this development became just "certain groups" rather than worthy constituents with legitimate concerns. Supervisor Peterson was elected by the people of District 5, and many of those people have reasonable concerns about already existing problems with traffic. He turned his back on those constituents and, according to this blog entry, re-envisioned his role as supervisor at large. The least he could do is acknowledge the concerns about the impact of his decision on the people who actually voted for him and who used to consider him "their" supervisor. Sad.