Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

The democrats are: Lizzie M. Drucker-Basch,,; and Melissa M. Dart

The republicans are: Matt C. Pinsker,,; Graven W. Craig,,; George S. Goodwin,; Surya P. Dhakar,,; John J. McGuire III,; and J. F. "Jay" Prendergast,,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kudos to the political groups for making this forum possible.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

There is lots more to do in Goochland.

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

Annual events like Rassawek (coming up June 3 and 4; Field Day of the Past ( for a trip back to simpler times; Bethlehem Walk, which gives special meaning to Christmas; and Fourth of July fireworks are local life savors.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

On the fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May pole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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